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Stop unacceptable harassment of human rights defenders in Occupied Palestinian Territory – UN experts

GENEVA (18 December 2015) – United Nations independent experts today expressed grave concerns at continued reports that human rights defenders are being subjected to physical attacks, harassment, arrest and detention, and death threats, particularly in Hebron in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), in an apparent bid by Israeli authorities and settler elements to stop their peaceful and important work.

“Amidst a charged and violent atmosphere over past months in the OPT, Palestinian and international defenders are providing a ‘protective presence’ for Palestinians at risk of violence, and documenting human rights violations,” said the UN Special Rapporteur the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

“The continued harassment of human rights defenders in the OPT, who are exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and association, is simply unacceptable. It should cease immediately,” Mr. Forst stressed.

Earlier this month, a group of UN human rights experts urged the Israeli Government to ensure a protective environment where human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory can work without unlawful restriction and without fear of retaliatory acts.

“We recently addressed concerns to the Israeli Government regarding retaliatory acts by Israeli authorities against members of one organisation based in Hebron, Youth Against Settlements, after its Centre was subjected to raids and settlers allegedly called for it to be closed,” noted the UN Special Rapporteur the situation of human rights in the OPT, Makarim Wibisono.

“The Centre has now effectively been shut down as a result of the Israeli military declaring the surrounding area a military zone,” Mr. Wibisono said. “We urge Israeli authorities to lift this military order.”

The experts’ statement has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan E. Méndez,
and by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai.


In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council designated Mr. Makarim Wibisono (Indonesia) as the sixth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/PS/Pages/SRPalestine.aspx

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Michel Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. For more information, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Pages:
Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx
Occupied Palestinian Territory: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ajith Sunghay (+41 22 9289353/ asunghay@ohchr.org or write to sropt@ohchr.org.) or Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 22 917 9183 / jgaziyev@ohchr.org or write to defenders@ohchr.org)

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