This week, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) submitted information to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967 for his upcoming report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017. The submission highlights the repressive environment within which human rights defenders (HRDs) work in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem. In the OPT, HRDs carrying out their day-to-day work are subjected to highly oppressive measures imposed by Israel’s illegal regime of occupation and the closure/blockade of Gaza, including severe restrictions on freedom of movement, association and assembly, travel bans, concerted efforts to discredit and criminalize their work, an escalation of verbal threats and physical violence, incarceration under military and administrative orders, and a lack of access to any channels for effective remedy.
The submission provides details on specific violations of the rights of staff working for Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling as well as field researchers working with civil society groups, advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (who have been subjected to serious verbal threats alluding to violence and deprivation of basic rights made by Israeli government ministers), media correspondents and aid workers in Gaza. However, the cases noted by PHROC are not isolated, instead standing only as examples of the types of harassment and intimidation to which HRDs working in the OPT are systematically subjected.
In response to the realities faced by Palestinian human rights defenders, PHROC urges the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the OPT to:
- Call on Israeli authorities to respect the rights of human rights defenders carrying out their work – in both Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem); stop applying the jurisdiction of the military courts in the OPT to civilians; allow Palestinian media outlets shut down under Israeli military orders to be re-opened, and release all Palestinian detainees being held on account of their political views or activities;
- Call on all states to ensure that threats and attacks against Palestinian human rights defenders working in the OPT (including in East Jerusalem), Israel and abroad are investigated, and that responsible parties are held accountable;
- Call on diplomatic representatives of states, the EU and the office of the OHCHR in the OPT to extend effective protection to all HRDs, including those active in the BDS movement.
- Call on all state parties to respect and protect the right of their citizens and civil society groups to freely advocate for an end of the Israel’s illegal occupation and respect of the human rights of the Palestinian people, including through advocacy for BDS.
- Affirm the obligation of companies, particularly those with headquarters or parent companies outside of Israel, to refrain from providing equipment that could be used to intercept or harm the work of Palestinian human rights defenders, and for social media providers to refrain from censoring individuals and organizations that defend the rights of Palestinian people; and
- Arrange a visit to the OPT to speak directly with HRDs at the earliest date possible.