GENEVA (11 August 2021) – A UN expert today expressed concern over arrests, harassment, criminalisation and threats against human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, and called on Israel to make sure all Palestinian human rights defenders are protected.
“Arrests and raids on the homes of Palestinian human right defenders form part of a wider crackdown against those defending the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
She said she was alarmed by the arbitrary arrest and detention of Farid Al-Atrash, a human rights defender and lawyer at the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). He was detained by Israeli military forces after he peacefully participated in a demonstration in Bethlehem on 15 June and was released on bail eight days later.
Lawlor said she was also concerned about the forcible transfer of Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. “Muna Al-Kurd, Mohammed Al-Kurd and Zuhair Al Rajabi,human rights defenders at the forefront of protecting their communities against forced displacement, have been arrested and interrogated,” she said.
She also cited the situation of Salah Hammouri, a Palestinian-French human rights defender and lawyer at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, who is at risk of having his permanent residency permit in Jerusalem revoked.
“I am shocked that members of the Health Work Committee, who provide health services to Palestinians living in remote areas of the West Bank, were arrested, interrogated and may be criminalised because of their human rights work,” Lawlor added.
The committee’s director, Shatha Odeh and its former project coordinator, Juana Ruiz Sánchez, are being held in Damoun Prison and its accountant, Tayseer Abu Sharbak, in Ofer prison. They are being tried on charges of participating in what is described as “an illegal organisation”.
“I call on Israeli authorities to release all three human rights defenders immediately,” said Lawlor. She also urged authorities to investigate allegations of ill-treatment against the two woman human rights defenders.
“The deteriorating health of Odeh and the solitary confinement of Sánchez are extremely worrying,” she said. Odeh, who has chronic underlying health conditions, had initially been denied access to necessary medication and clean clothes.
Lawlor stressed the importance of safeguarding Palestinian human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially those who are protecting their communities’ rights to housing, healthcare and freedom of assembly and association.
“I call on the authorities to stop targeting these human rights defenders and allow them to carry out their legitimate and peaceful work free from any kind of restrictions,” she said.
The expert’s call is endorsed by: Mr. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Ms. Melissa Upreti (Chair), Ms. Dorothy Estrada-Tanck (Vice Chair), Ms. Elizabeth Broderick, Ms. Ivana Radačić, and Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority Issues; Ms. Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng,Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.
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.
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