Finally, the world is turning its attention to Palestine. In a significant development, UN human rights experts called on the international community to take immediate and effective steps to protect and sustain the six Palestinian civil society groups that were designated as ‘terrorist organizations’ by the Israeli regime in October 2021.
In a press release by the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Right body, the UN experts dubbed the Israelis’ heinous act to designate civil society groups as terrorist organizations as a “disturbing designation.”
“Israel’s disturbing designation of these organizations as ‘terrorist organizations’ has not been accompanied by any public concrete and credible evidence,” said the human rights experts. “We note that the information presented by Israel has also failed to convince a number of governments and international organizations that have traditionally provided funding for the indispensable work of these six organizations.”
In October 2021, the UN experts denounced Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International, Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees – as terrorist organizations. Israel’s designation enables it to close the organizations, seize their assets, end their work and charge their leadership and staff with terrorist offences.
“Israel has had six months to substantiate its accusations and it has failed to deliver,” the experts said. “We call on the funding governments and international organizations to swiftly conclude that Israel has not established its allegations and to announce that they will continue to financially and politically support these organizations and the communities and groups they serve.”
Although Israel has not substantiated its allegations publicly or to the funding governments and international organizations, several of the funders have delayed their contributions to the Palestinian organizations while they investigate these claims. The European Union has formally suspended its funding for two of these organizations. This has undermined the work of these Palestinian organizations and has had an incalculable impact on the communities they support.
The experts said there has been a lack of clarity about the duration of these steps.
“We are deeply disturbed by Israel’s apparent misuse of anti-terrorism legislation to attack some of the leading civil society organizations in Palestine. Such misuse must be rejected and countered,” the experts said.
“The United Nations has been very clear that the drafting and application of anti-terrorism laws have to be rigorously consistent with international law and human rights protections, including the principles of legal certainty, necessity, proportionality, the rule of law and non-discrimination.”
Against this background, the experts welcomed the statement issued on March 23, 2022 by the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation, Meryame Kitir, who stated, “My administration has conducted an internal investigation into the allegations. This did not reveal any evidence that would confirm the allegations. I have therefore decided not to take any action against the Palestinian organizations in question. Nor is the evidence provided by the Israeli authorities such as to reconsider my decision.”
The human rights experts emphasized that they recognize and applaud the indispensable work of Palestinian civil society in holding Israel accountable for its occupation and human rights violations and in promoting democratic principles and human rights within Palestinian society.
“Applying anti-terrorism laws to well-regarded human rights defenders and civil society organizations – without persuasive evidence to substantiate these claims – seems to indicate a politically-motivated attempt by Israel to silence some of its most effective critics in violation of their rights to freedom of association and of expression,” they said.
“If the international community is serious about its support for Palestinian self-determination and an end to the 55-year-old Israeli occupation, it must become more vocal and assertive in defending the work of these organizations, and reminding Israel of its international human rights obligations.”
Accordingly, the human rights experts called upon the international community to:
Publicly conclude that Israel has not substantiated its allegations against the six organizations;
Resume, continue and even increase its financial and political support for the work of these six organizations; and
Demand that Israel retract the designations and cease its harassment of all Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights and civil society organizations which promote human rights and accountability in Israel and Palestine.
Certainly, the steps taken to counter the Israeli regime’s odious crimes and designations are insufficient, but this is a good start, as the international organizations have been tight-lipped about the monstrous regime’s actions.
Iran, as a pioneer of resistance and resilience of the brave Palestinian fighters, have always urged the global community to take effective measures to stop the Israeli regime’s atrocities. Free-spirited people around the world have taken Iran’s call, and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians multitudes of times, unlike their arrogant governments, who prefer to have economic relations with the child-killing regime.