Israel

 

  • CIVICUS Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 5 countries in advance of the 29th UPR session in January 2018. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Countries Examined: Burundi, France, Israel, Serbia, and the UAE 

    Burundi: CIVICUS, APRODH, LigueITEKA, DefendDefenders and FIDH examine the failure of the Government of Burundi to implement the vast majority of recommendations it accepted and noted during Burundi’s previous UPR cycle. In the submission, we highlight the restrictions on fundamental freedoms, the targeting of human rights defenders and Burundi’s refusal to cooperate with international human rights institutions and mechanisms. We further examine the high levels of impunity enjoyed by government officials, members of the security forces and the armed wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, the Imbonerakure. 

    France: While France has faced serious terrorist threats since its last UPR review, measures taken to protect the public from attacks have had negative consequences for the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. In its submission to Frances third UPR review, CIVICUS outlines a series of concerns related to France’s decision to repeatedly extend its state of emergency, which has expanded powers of arrest, detention and surveillance of security forces without adequate judicial oversight and without due regard for the proportionality of measures taken to restrict fundamental freedoms. 

    Israel: CIVICUS, PNGO and ANND raise concern over ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since Israel’s previous UPR examination. Worryingly, the authorities continue to subvert the right to freedom of expression through the criminalization of dissent online. Human rights defenders and peaceful protesters also routinely face arbitrary arrest and are held in administrative detention to suppress their legitimate work.

    Serbia: CIVICUS, the Human Rights House Belgrade (Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Civic Initiatives, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) and Human Rights House Foundation document the continued intimidation, attacks and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists who report on sensitive issues, such as transitional justice, corruption or government accountability. Additionally, we assess how vilification of and smear campaigns against human right defenders, CSOs, and independent media outlets is undermining the work of civil society.

    United Arab Emirates: In its joint UPR submission, CIVICUS, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the International Service for Human Rights examine the continued suppression of fundamental democratic freedoms in the United Arab Emirates. This report explores the ongoing systematic campaign to persecute human rights defenders through arbitrary arrests, torture, deportation and the continued use of draconian legislation to restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

     

  • Civil society calls on the Israeli Government to release Ameer Makhoul

    CIVICUS joins civil society groups from around the world in demanding the immediate release of Ameer Makhoul, Director of Ittijah, an association of community-based Arab organisations based in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Ameer Makhoul, a prominent human rights activist and prisoner of conscience was arrested under questionable circumstances on 6 May 2010.

    Ameer Makhoul remains in prison despite the lack of evidence against him. During his latest appearance in the District Court in Haifa on 16 September, the cross examination of the policemen who arrested Ameer on 6 May revealed that during the Shabak (GSS) investigations, Ameer was denied sleep and access to the restroom for more than 24 hours. It was also revealed that there was no evidence on his computer and cell phone to prove he was involved in espionage or any conspiracy with a Hezbollah agent - charges levelled against him by the Israeli government.

    According to local sources, Ameer was detained incommunicado for six days following his arrest where he was given no explanation of the charges brought forth against him and was denied access to a lawyer during that time. Ameer is charged with violating "security" regulations, allegedly meeting and conspiring with an alleged Hezbollah agent while abroad who supposedly recruited him to engage in espionage against Israel. The Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, has refused to reveal any evidence supporting the charges against Ameer.

    During all of his seven meetings with his lawyers in prison, Ameer was denied his constitutional right to consult with lawyers privately and confidentially. According to Provision 45 of the Prisons Ordinance, clients and lawyers should not be separated, conversations should not be recorded or listened in on and it should be possible for lawyers to exchange documents relevant to the legal proceedings of the case. However, during each of the consultations, communication was only allowed via telephone, separated by a glass screen, or with prison guards listening into the conversations.

    The following civil society organisations from around the world and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen consider Ameer as a prisoner of conscience, who has been arbitrarily arrested and detained for his lawful work with Ittijah, a civil society group which promotes the rights of Palestinian Arab civil society and advocates for political, economic and social change for Palestinians who are denied equal access to infrastructure and services. We call upon on the Israeli Government to respect its international human rights obligations by restoring to Ameer Makhoul his rights to freedom of expression, movement and proper due process of law. His next appearance in court will be October.

    This Public Statement has been endorsed/signed by the following:

    Karapatan, Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights - Philippines
    Association of NGOs of Aotearoa - New Zealand
    Development Services Exchange - Solomon Islands
    Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement - Egypt
    Cook Islands Association of NGOs - Cook Islands
    National Association of NGOs - Zimbabwe
    National Council for Voluntary Organisations - England
    NGO Coalition on Child Rights - Pakistan
    Nigerian Network of NGOs - Nigeria
    Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations - Scotland
    Sinergia, Venezuelan Association of Civil Society Organisations - Venezuela

     

  • Civil society calls on UN member states to address Israeli attacks against Palestinians

    Regional and international civil society organisations from around the world call on United Nations Member States to address the escalating and institutionalised Israeli attacks against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line during the 30th HRC Special Session

    Your Excellency, 

    Israel’s repression against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line escalated in May 2021 in response to widespread Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s imminent threat of eviction and displacement of eight Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. Notably, this is only the latest example of Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression, which the Palestinian people have endured for decades. While the international community has ensured Israel’s impunity since 1948, enabling Israel to continue to commit widespread and systematic human rights violations, Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and refugees and exiles abroad continue to oppose and stand steadfast against 73 years of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid. 

    As Israel intensifies its crackdown on Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank, conducts military strikes against civilians in the Gaza Strip, which have been living under a comprehensive land, air, and sea closure for 14 years, and targets Palestinians inside the Green Line, the undersigned civil society organizations, from around the world, urge your delegation to  engage in the 30th Special Session by the UN Human Rights Council and  address all violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the root causes of Israeli violations against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

    Since 13 April 2021, the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) have systematically targeted and attacked Palestinians in Jerusalem. The attacks escalated when the occupation police targeted worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets, resulting in hundreds of injured Palestinians. The occupation police prevented paramedics from accessing the compound to treat the injured and even directly targeted emergency responders by firing tear gas and wastewater containers on volunteers, paramedics, and ambulances. In other parts of the West Bank, Israel has violently suppressed demonstrations calling for an end to Israeli oppression, including by shooting live ammunition at demonstrators, killing 14 Palestinians between 14 and 18 May 2021. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, between 7 and 19 May, 5164 Palestinians were injured, 578 with live ammunition. 

    These attacks come in the context of increasing Palestinian mobilization against Israel’s policies and practices of racial domination and oppression, in response to the imminent eviction of eight Palestinian families, totaling 19 households of around 87 individuals, from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. The forcible transfer of Palestinians from Jerusalem is a war crime and likely amounts to a crime against humanity as it is being perpetrated in a widespread and systematic manner. Principle 6 of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, prohibits arbitrary displacement, including “when it is based on policies of apartheid, ‘ethnic cleansing’ or similar practices aimed at/or resulting in altering the ethnic, religious or racial composition of the affected population.” All of these criteria are applicable to Israeli practices, policies and laws implemented with the intention of maintaining Jewish Israeli domination over the Palestinian people. 

    The Israeli police have also violently repressed Palestinian demonstrations inside the Green Line. Since 10 May 2021, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel came out to protest the evictions of Palestinian refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah, the use of extreme violence and attacks on worshippers and protestors by the police in Al-Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere, and the Israeli military attacks in Gaza. The Palestinian protestors were subjected to police violence and human rights violations, including denial of emergency medical care. High Commissioner Bachelet highlighted “reports of excessive and discriminatory use of force by police against Palestinian citizens of Israel”. Since 10 May, the  police have arrested 1097 Palestinians. 

    Moreover, Israeli settlers have intensified attacks against Palestinians living in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, with the support of the IOF. Inside the Green Line, far-right Jewish Israelis organized and coordinated the arrival of armed Israelis to attack Palestinians in al-Lydd, Ramle, Akka, Haifa, and Yafa, among other cities and areas. Moreover, the IOF has allowed Israeli settlers coming from the West Bank entry into Israel to target Palestinian neighborhoods and villages and provided support and protection as they attacked Palestinian residents and destroyed Palestinian property. In response, the Israeli police has not taken any action against and in some cases cooperated and supported the mob violence. High Commission Bachelet raised concern at “reports that Israeli police failed to intervene where Palestinian citizens of Israel were being violently attacked, and that social media is being used by ultraright-wing groups to rally people to bring ‘weapons, knives, clubs, knuckledusters to use against Palestinian citizens of Israel.” 

    In the Gaza Strip, the IOF continues to target civilian structures, in particular homes, wiping out whole families, and inflicting widespread destruction and collective punishment on the entire, trapped population. Since 10 May 2021, human rights organizations documented Israel’s use of disproportionate, indiscriminate, and unnecessary military force in violation of international law. Residential blocks are “being targeted pursuant to an apparent policy agreed by Israel's military and political leadership”. The number of residential buildings targeted now stands at 94, including six towers—three of which were completely destroyed—ultimately destroying 371 residential units. In addition, hundreds of private properties, as well as tens of governmental sites, schools, banks, and mosques have sustained significant damages. Israel’s airstrikes have also led to the large-scale destruction of power and water networks, as well as thousands of square meters of vital paved roads. 

    Israel’s extensive and systematic attacks on buildings, and the shelling of residential areas, especially those near the separation fence, force civilians—men, women, and children—to flee their homes in search of safety. Around 41,900 people have moved to 53 UNRWA schools, and the numbers are still increasing. Displaced people are experiencing appalling humanitarian conditions, especially when UNRWA schools have not officially been opened as shelters. 

    As of 2 pm on 17 May, 231 Palestinians, including 65 children and 39 women were killed; 1212 others have been injured in the attacks, including 277children and 204women. According to Israeli media, ten Israelis have been killed following rocket fire from Gaza. 

    It is again clear that civilians are paying the price of Israel’s pervasive impunity. Any firing of rockets or attacks must meet assessments of proportionality and the requirement for a concrete and direct military advantage. Indiscriminate attacks or targeting of civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities constitute a grave violation of international law. In order to protect all civilians, the Human Rights Council should address the root causes of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid to achieve lasting justice. 

    We call on your missions to:

     

    • Engage in the 30th UN Human Rights Council Special Session and address the escalating Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people, including the root causes of Israeli violations against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.
    • Establish a commission of inquiry to:
    • Monitor, document and report on all violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including the escalating attacks against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line since April 2021;
    • Include and address the root causes of Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people in line with the 2019 Concluding Observations on Israel by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which highlighted Israeli policies and practices against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line are in violation of Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) pertaining to racial segregation and apartheid;
    • Identify individuals responsible for serious crimes; 
    • Collect and preserve evidence related to violations to be used for accountability in relevant judicial bodies and transfer evidence to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

    Endorsing organisations 

    1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 
    2. International Service for Human Rights 
    3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 
    4. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
    5. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    6. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) 
    7. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights 
    8. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    9. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
    10. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) 
    11. Women League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
    12. Sexual Rights Initiative
    13. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    14. 11.11.11 
    15. The Center for Reproductive Rights 
    16. Baytna 
    17. Bytes For All, Pakistan 
    18. Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign 
    19. Human Rights solidarity 
    20. Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP) 
    21. European Legal Support Center 
    22. Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
    23. Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine
    24. The Niagara Movement for Justice in Palestine-Israel (NMJPI) 
    25. ICAHD Finland
    26. Association belgo-Palestinienne WB
    27. Viva Salud
    28.  Intal
    29. CNCD-11.11.11
    30. EuroMed Rights
    31. The Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO) - Lebanon 
    32. Scottish Palestinian Forum
    33. Trócaire
    34. European Trade Union Network for Justice in Palestine (ETUN)
    35. Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice (IIMA)
    36. UPJB (Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique)
    37. Akahatá
    38. Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
    39. Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network
    40. Canadian BDS Coalition
    41. ASGI - Association for juridical studies on immigration
    42. Network for Immigration, Development and Democracy (IDD)
    43. Aegis for Human Rights
    44. Geneva Bridge Association
    45. Association of Maghreb Workers in France
    46. Association for the Promotion of the Right to Difference
    47. El Na aura Association, Belgium
    48. Coordination for Maghreb Human rights Organizations (CMODH)
    49. SAM organization for Rights and Liberties
    50. Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights
    51. Dameer Foundation for Rights and Freedom
    52. INSAF Center for Defending Freedoms and Minorities
    53. Abductees’ Mothers Association
    54. Together We Raise (Social Association) 
    55. Watch for Human Rights 
    56. Mwatana for Human Rights 
    57. Hadramout Foundation For Legal Support and Training
    58. Yemeni Observatory of Mines
    59. Mwatana for Human Rights
    60. Social Peace Promotion and Legal Protection
    61. Al-Haq Foundation for Human Rights 
    62. Al-Rakeezeh Foundation for Relief and Development 
    63. Growth foundation for development & improvement
    64. Namaa Foundation for Development and Improvement 
    65. Lebanese Center for Human Rights
    66. Freedom of Thought and Expression
    67. Committee for Justice
    68. Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
    69. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
    70. Egyptian Human Rights Forum
    71. The Freedom Initiative
    72. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
    73. Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
    74. Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press
    75. February 17 Organization for Environment and Human Rights
    76. Shiraa Association to fight AIDS and drugs
    77. Thought Pioneers Organization Mattress
    78. Mattress Youth Organization
    79. Al-Tebyan Association for Human Rights Dirj
    80. Al-Massar Organization for Youth and Culture Dirj Branch
    81. Mediterranean Organization for Development and Humanitarian Relief
    82. International Arabic Organization for Women’s Rights
    83. Nass for Nass organization to support youth Misurata
    84. Defender Center for Human Rights
    85. Libyan Crimes Watch
    86. Libyan Organization for Legal Aid
    87. Human rights solidarity
    88. The Tunisian General Labor Union 
    89. The Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia
    90. The Tunisian Organization Against Torture
    91. The Tunisian Association for the Defense of Individual Liberties
    92. The Tunisian Association 23-10 for the Support of the Democratic Transition Process
    93. The National Observatory for the Defense of the Civic Character of the State
    94. The Tunisian Association for the Defense of Minorities
    95. Hassan Saadaoui Association for Democracy and Equality
    96. The National Union for Tunisian Journalists
    97. Vigilance for Democracy and Civic State       
    98. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
    99. Democratic Association of Tunisians in France
    100. Association Aswat Nissa
    101. Tunisian Federation for Citizenship on both shores
    102. Tunisian Union for Citizenship Action
    103. Tunisian Center for Press Freedom
    104. EuroMaghreb Network: citizenship and culture
    105. Vigilance for Democracy in Tunisia (Belgium)
    106. Ga3 Kifkif Network
    107. Algerian Feminist Journal Foundation
    108. Tharwa N'Fadhma N'Soumeur organisation
    109. Action for Change and Democracy in Algeria (ACDA)
    110. Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH)
    111. Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel (SNAPAP)
    112. General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA)
    113. Riposte Internationale
    114. Collective of the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA)
    115. National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD)
    116. SHOAA for Human Rights
    117. Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Morocco (ASDHOM)
    118. Organization for freedoms of Media and Expression
    119. Libyan Organization for Independent Media 
    120. Youth for Tawergha 

     

  • Israel at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

    38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
    Adoption of the UPR report of Israel

    Mr. President, this is a joint statement by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and CIVICUS. Israeli authorities continue to commit systematic and gross human rights violations against Palestinians. They have failed to implement human rights obligations as a state party to ICCPR and ICESCR and continue to disregard recommendations from UN Special Rapporteurs that call for an immediate end to the occupation.

    In our joint UPR report, we documented undue restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly and recommended that Israeli authorities stop using excessive and lethal force during protests. Recently in the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces used snipers, plastic coated steel bullets, explosive bullets and gas grenades fired from drones in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinians. Since March 20th, 2018, Israeli forces have killed 127 Palestinians and injured an estimated 14,000. Earlier this month, Razan al-Najar, a 21-year old nurse wearing a medical vest was killed by Israeli sniper fire while tending to injured protesters.

    Systematic violations also include the detention of Palestinian human rights defenders. Legislation enacted in 2016 granted Israeli authorities the power to indefinitely detain individuals without trial. These provisions are routinely used to detain human rights defenders. In May 2017, there were over 6,000 political prisoners with 490 imprisoned without trial. 

    We also express concern over Israel’s muzzling of social media. New legislation enacted in 2017 grants Israeli authorities power to arbitrarily block web content and arrest individuals for social media posts. 

    Mr.  President, PNGO, ANND and CIVICUS urge Council members to call on the Israeli government to respect its obligations under international law, by ending the occupation and recognising Palestinian self-determination. 

     

  • ISRAEL: There is a lack of political will to end the occupation

     

    Twitter: Amit Gilutz

    After a tough year for dissent in the occupied Palestinian territories, CIVICUS speaks to Amit Gilutz, spokesperson of B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Founded in 1989, B’Tselem (which means ‘in the image of’, pointing to the universal moral edict to respect and uphold the human rights of all people) strives to end Israel’s occupation, which it sees as the only way to achieve a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, Palestinian and Israeli alike, who inhabit the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It does so by documenting and publicising acts of injustice, violence and human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, and by challenging the legitimacy of the occupation regime both in Israel and internationally.

    How would you describe the environment for civil society in Israel over the past year? Has it worsened or improved?

    The recent Israeli governments - each more extremely right-wing than its predecessor - have for years engaged in a campaign aimed at silencing criticism of their policies in general and specifically stifling any debate about the occupation. Not only are human rights organisations such as B’Tselem targeted: anyone critical of the government, whether they be journalists, academics, or artists, easily becomes the target for incitement through smear campaigns and legislation designed to narrow the space available for political or even cultural action. At the same time the government is engaged in intensive international lobbying aimed at cutting funding for civil society organisations (CSOs). This process, widely referred to as ‘shrinking democratic space’, is the predictable consequence of the prolonged occupation itself, now in its 51st year. It is paralleled with another push to erase the occupation, namely the formal annexation of the territories, which the current government seems to be keener on than previous ones.

    What effects have the turn towards right-wing populism abroad, and particularly in the USA, Israel’s most powerful ally, had in Israel?

    Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been joining forces with other reactionary and populist governments around the world, aiming to create new alliances that would diminish the ability of the international community to act effectively against the occupation. These alliances, together with the green light Israel sees coming from Washington, including through a series of unilateral measures the US administration has taken against Palestinians, has emboldened the pro-settlement camp in Israel, as well as the government to step up its efforts in the dynamic process of gradually taking over more and more Palestinian land and resources, while pushing Palestinians onto enclaves that are detached from one another and from resources needed for a sustainable future.

    A case in point is the plan to forcibly remove the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar, which is a war crime under international law. For decades Israel has created a coercive environment for dozens of Palestinian communities in the West Bank, hoping they will give up and leave, as if by their own volition, while stopping short of directly loading them onto trucks and dumping them elsewhere. These are the kinds of images that would damage the PR efforts of a state that purports to be a democracy, while at the same time controlling millions of subjects with no political rights. In the current political climate, Israel seems to be nearing a point in which this consideration will no longer stop it, although the planned forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents is for now on hold, thanks to international pressure.

    How significant was the Knesset’s decision to pass the contentious nation-state bill into law, declaring Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people”?

    Although significant, none of the laws passed recently should be seen in isolation because it is their totality that matters. Their combined purpose is to mark any opposition to the occupation as illegitimate, as lying beyond the border of acceptable politics, and to further marginalise the Palestinian citizens of Israel. That said, the opposition to the nation-state bill has been quite exceptional, and one can only hope that this opposition can be sustained.

    How do you work in the occupied territories, and what challenges do you face in doing so?

    B’Tselem field researchers are Palestinians who work in the communities in which they live, all across the Occupied Territories. The reality of the occupation is something that they experience on both the personal, as well as the professional, level. Take for example the B’Tselem field researchers based in blockaded Gaza: together with two million Palestinians they live under this reality. On a personal level, it’s part of their lives. On a professional level, the fact that they never get a permit from Israeli authorities to leave the Gaza Strip means that it’s almost impossible for them to meet with colleagues from the B’Tselem team. A permit to exit the strip would also mean some relief from the inhumane conditions that the blockade Israel imposes on Gaza has created. In the occupied West Bank, our field researchers and volunteers have been arrested, strip-searched and harassed, have had their equipment confiscated and otherwise prevented from doing their work.

    On the other side, in Israel proper, life of course is much more ‘normal’ – as exposed as our team is to the ongoing hate speech and government incitement. Specifically, Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s Executive Director, has once again recently been a target of incitement. In October 2018, when he appeared for the second time in front of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, Israel’s Envoy to the UN, Danny Dannon, boasted in English about Israeli democracy, while addressing Hagai in Hebrew and accusing him of being a traitor.

    What extra help, including from international civil society, does progressive civil society in Israel need to help create a future in which Israelis and Palestinians can coexist and enjoy equal human rights?

    We need civilians around the world to demand that their representatives do nothing short of decisive action in order to bring an end to the occupation. What we lack is not political solutions but political will, and meanwhile an unbearable toll is taken on Palestinians.

    Civic space in Israel is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with B’Tselem through theirwebsite orFacebook page, or follow@btselem and@amit_gilutz on Twitter

     

  • Letter to Israeli Prime Minister appealing for the release of Mr. Makhoul

    Click here to download

     

  • Más de 100 fundaciones y donantes mundiales se comprometen a mantener la solidaridad con la sociedad civil palestina tras la prohibición por parte de Israel de seis importantes organizaciones de derechos humanos

    Los líderes filantrópicos instan a los gobiernos a defender la democracia y los derechos humanos protegiendo a la sociedad civil contra las políticas represivas.

     

  • Over 100 Global foundations & donors pledge solidarity with blacklisted Palestinian civil society groups

    Philanthropic leaders urge governments to uphold democracy and human rights by protecting civil society against repressive policies


    More than 100 global foundations and donors, most of them U.S.-based, have signed on to an open letter expressing solidarity with Palestinian civil society after six leading human rights organisations were designated as so-called “terrorist organisations” by Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Gantz. The list of signatories includes foundations and funder networks across the U.S. and Europe that support environmental justice, feminist movements, and human rights -- all areas that the six banned nonprofit organisations focus on.

    “The cynical weaponisation of anti-terrorism laws poses an existential threat both for Palestinian human rights defenders and those defending human rights globally,” said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a philanthropic organisation that promotes a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The breadth of signers of this letter underscores funders’ shared recognition of the urgency of challenging this dangerous tactic, and of the moral obligation to defend partners on the ground who, in essence, have been singled out for attack because they have done their work defending human and civil rights too well.”

    The six targeted organisations provide essential services for more than five million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. The list includes Addameer, 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’s Committees.

    “The philanthropic community must not be silent,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, Global Fund for Women President and CEO. “Palestinian women, girls, and gender diverse and nonconforming people face multiple sources of violence—from the Israeli military occupation to a society dominated by patriarchy. The groups targeted by the Israeli government as ‘terrorists’ are activists. Women human rights defenders are fighting worldwide to end the widespread impunity for violence against women, sexual and gender-based violence, and femicide. We are honored to be part of a group of philanthropists who recognise their role in supporting movement leaders on the forefront of social justice.”

    International human rights and intergovernmental bodies rely on the targeted groups for documentation of Israeli rights violations, such as the government’s plan to construct more than 3,100 new illegal settlement units on Palestinian lands, announced just days after the six organisations were banned.  

    "The exposure of illegal spying on peaceful Palestinian human rights defenders, coming on top of baseless terrorism claims against internationally respected human rights organisations, underscores how important it is that the international community continue supporting their legitimate work," said Andrew Anderson, executive director of Front Line Defenders, which protects human rights defenders at risk globally. "Surely this episode will serve as a stark warning against any deployment of the term 'terrorist' against human rights defenders anywhere in the world, and renew efforts to rein in the use of spyware against human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society activists."

    The philanthropy open letter urges the U.S. government, European Union, and other governments around the world to protect Palestinian civil society by taking the following actions:  

    • Denounce all smear campaigns against Palestinian civil society organisations and press the Israeli government to immediately and fully rescind Gantz’s designation of “terrorist organization” against the six prominent Palestinian human rights organisations;
    • Hold the Israeli government accountable to adhere to international law and human rights standards; and;
    • Ensure that any philanthropic funds designated toward civil society organisations in Palestine reach them without interference by the Israeli government or financial institutions.

    “These designations mark a crescendo, not an opening salvo, in the Israeli government’s long-standing campaign to suppress Palestinian civil society,” said Kay Guinane, founder and senior advisor at the Charity & Security Network, a resource and advocacy center that protects the ability of nonprofits to carry out peacebuilding, humanitarian, and human rights missions. “For over a decade, Israel has been working with a network of legal outfits and disinformation groups to distract, defund, and delegitimise organisations in Palestine and internationally that work to support Palestinian needs and end Israel’s human rights abuses. Now, in addition to supporting disinformation and spurious lawsuits, the Israeli government is simply outlawing those who stand up to its abuses.”

    Pamela Kohlberg, who sits on the board of the Radical Imagination Family Foundation, added: “It is especially important for us, as Jews, to stand up for the human rights of the Palestinian community. Uniting as progressive funders to protest the targeting of these important civil society groups is critical. Future work for stability in the region will require relationships and cooperation with these organisations.”

    The full text of the letter and latest list of signatories may be found here.


    Civic space in Palestine is rated as "Repressed"by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    Civic space in Israel is rated as "Obstructed"by the CIVICUS Monitor. 

     

  • PALESTINE: ‘The counter-terrorism law is used to restrict political work in Palestine & shrink civic space in Israel’

    CIVICUS speaks withEinat Fogel-Levin, International Advocacy Coordinator for the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF), about growing restrictions on Palestinian civil society. HRDF is an Israeli civil society organisation (CSO) working to protect Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders (HRDs) by providing legal aid and defence to those facing various forms of legal persecution and fending off attacks on their bodies, persons and work.

     

  • Plus de 100 fondations et donateurs mondiaux s'engagent à être solidaires de la société civile palestinienne suite à l'interdiction par Israël de six grandes organisations de défense des droits de l'homme.

    Les leaders philanthropiques exhortent les gouvernements à défendre la démocratie et les droits de l'homme en protégeant la société civile contre les politiques répressives.

     

  • Progress and shortcomings from 44th Session of the Human Rights Council

    Joint Statement for the end of the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council began with China's imposition of legislation severely undermining rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Within days, there were reports of hundreds of arrests, some for crimes that didn’t even exist previously. We welcome efforts this session by a growing number of States to collectively address China’s sweeping rights abuses, but more is needed. An unprecedented 50 Special Procedures recently expressed concerns at China’s mass violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, suppression of information in the context of Covid-19, and targeting of human rights defenders across the country. The Council should heed the call of these UN experts to hold a Special Session and create a mechanism to monitor and document rights violations in the country. No state is beyond international scrutiny. China’s turn has come.

    The 44th session also marked an important opportunity to enable those affected directly by human rights violations to speak to the Council through NGO video statements.

    Amnesty's Laith Abu Zeyad addressed the Council remotely from the occupied West Bank where he has been trapped by a punitive travel ban imposed by Israel since October 2019. We call on the Israeli authorities to end all punitive or arbitrary travel bans.

    During the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, victims’ associations and families of victims highlighted the human rights violations occurring in detention centers in Syria. We welcome the efforts by some States to underline their demands and welcome the adoption of the Syria resolution on detainees and urge the Syrian government to take all feasible measures to release detainees and provide truth to the families, noting the important pressure needed by Member States to further call for accountability measures for crimes committed in Syria.

    Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers against Police Brutality, also delivered a powerful video statement at the Council explaining the reality of racist policing in the United States of America. We fully support victims’ families’ appeals to the Council for accountability.

    We hope that the High Commissioner's reporton systemic racism, police violence and government responses to antiracism peaceful protests will be the first step in a series of meaningful international accountability measures to fully and independently investigate police killings, to protect and facilitate Black Lives Matter and other protests, and to provide effective remedy and compensation to victims and their families in the United States of America and around the world.

    We appreciate the efforts made by the Council Presidency and OHCHR to overcome the challenges of resuming the Council’s work while taking seriously health risks associated with COVID-19, including by increasing remote and online participation. We recommend that remote civil society participation continue and be strengthened for all future sessions of the Council.

    Despite these efforts, delays in finalising the session dates and modalities, and subsequent changes in the programme of work, reduced the time CSOs had to prepare and engage meaningfully. This has a disproportionate impact on CSOs not based in Geneva, those based in different time zones and those with less capacity to monitor the live proceedings. Other barriers to civil society participation this session included difficulties to meet the strict technical requirements for uploading video statements, to access resolution drafts and follow informal negotiations remotely, especially from other time zones, as well as a decrease in the overall number of speaking slots available for NGO statements due to the cancellation of general debates this session as an ‘efficiency measure.’

    We welcome the joint statement led by the core group on civil society space and endorsed by cross regional States and civil society, which calls on the High Commissioner to ensure that the essential role of civil society, and States’ efforts to protect and promote civil society space, are reflected in the report on impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented to the 46th Session of the HRC. We urge all States at this Council to recognise and protect the key role that those who defend human rights play.

    These last two years have seen unlawful use of force perpetrated by law enforcement against peaceful protesters, protest monitors, journalists worldwide, from the United States of America to Hong Kong, to Chile to France, Kenya to Iraq to Algeria, to India to Lebanon with impunity.

    We therefore welcome that the resolution “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests” was adopted by consensus, and that the Council stood strongly against some proposed amendments which would have weakened it. We also welcome the inclusion in the resolution of a panel during the 48th session to discuss such events and how States can strengthen protections. We urge States to ensure full accountability for such human rights violations as an essential element of the protection of human rights in the context of protests. The current context has accelerated the urgency of protecting online assembly, and we welcome that the resolution reaffirms that peaceful assembly rights guaranteed offline are also guaranteed online. In particular, we also commend the resolution for calling on States to refrain from internet shutdowns and website blocking during protests, while incorporating language on the effects of new and emerging technologies, particularly tools such as facial recognition, international mobile subscriber identity-catchers (“stingrays”) and closed-circuit television.

    We welcome that the resolution on “freedom of opinion and expression” contains positive language including on obligations surrounding the right to information, emphasising the importance of measures for encryption and anonymity, and strongly condemning the use of internet shutdowns. Following the High Commissioner’s statement raising alarm at the abuse of ‘false news’ laws to crackdown on free expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also welcome that the resolution stresses that responses to the spread of disinformation and misinformation must be grounded in international human rights law, including the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality. At the same time, we are concerned by the last minute addition of language which focuses on restrictions to freedom of expression, detracting from the purpose of the resolution to promote and protect the right. As we look to the future, it is important that the core group builds on commitments contained in the resolution and elaborate on pressing freedom of expression concerns of the day, particularly for the digital age, such as the issue of surveillance or internet intermediary liability, while refocusing elements of the text.

    The current context has not only accelerated the urgency of protecting assembly and access to information, but also the global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We welcome the timely discussions on ”realizing children’s right to a healthy environment” and the concrete suggestions for action from panelists, States, and civil society. The COVID-19 crisis, brought about by animal-to-human viral transmission, has clarified the interlinkages between the health of the planet and the health of all people. We therefore support the UN Secretary General’s call to action on human rights, as well as the High Commissioner’s statement advocating for the global recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – already widely reflected at national and regional levels - and ask that the Council adopts a resolution in that sense. We also support the calls made by the Marshall Islands, Climate Vulnerable Forum, and other States of the Pacific particularly affected and threatened by climate change. We now urge the Council to strengthen its role in tackling the climate crisis and its adverse impacts on the realization of human rights by establishing a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, which will help address the urgency of the situation and amplify the voices of affected communities.

    The COVID crisis has also exacerbated discrimination against women and girls. We welcome the adoption by the Council of a strong resolution on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls, which are exacerbated in times of a global pandemic. The text, inter alia, reaffirms the rights to sexual and reproductive health and to bodily autonomy, and emphasizes legal obligations of States to review their legislative frameworks through an intersectional approach. We regret that such a timely topic has been questioned by certain States and that several amendments were put forward on previously agreed language.

    The Council discussed several country-specific situations, and renewed the mandates in some situations.

    We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and ongoing scrutiny on Belarus. The unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and members of the political opposition in recent weeks ahead of the Presidential election in August provide a clear justification for the continued focus, and the need to ensure accountability for Belarus’ actions. With concerns that the violations may increase further over the next few weeks, it is essential that the Council members and observers maintain scrutiny and pressure even after the session has finished.

    We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. We urge the government to engage, in line with its Council membership obligations, as the Special Rapporteur’s ‘benchmarks for progress’ form a road map for human rights reform in the country. We welcome the High Commissioner report on the human rights situation in the Philippines which concluded, among other things, that the ongoing killings appear to be widespread and systematic and that “the practical obstacles to accessing justice in the country are almost insurmountable.” We regret that even during this Council session, President Duterte signed an Anti Terrorism Law with broad and vague definition of terrorism and terrorists and other problematic provisions for human rights and rule of law, which we fear will be used to stifle and curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Also during this session, in a further attack on press freedom, Philippine Congress rejected the franchise renewal of independent media network ABS-CBN, while prominent journalist Maria Ressa and her news website Rappler continue to face court proceedings and attacks from President Duterte after Ressa’s cyber libel conviction in mid-June. We support the call from a group of Special Procedures to the Council to establish an independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines and urge the Council to establish it at the next session.

    The two reports presented to the Council on Venezuela this session further document how lack of judicial independence and other factors perpetuate impunity and prevent access to justice for a wide range of violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights in the country. We also urge the Council to stand ready to extend, enhance and expand the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission when it reports in September. We also welcome the report of the Special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 and reiterate his call for States to ensure Israel puts an end to all forms of collective punishment. We also reiterate his call to ensure that the UN database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements becomes a living tool, through sufficient resourcing and annual updating.

    We regret, however, that several States have escaped collective scrutiny this session.

    We reiterate the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s call to pressure Saudi Arabia to release prisoners of conscience and women human rights defenders and call on all States to sustain the Council’s scrutiny over the situation at the September session.

    Despite calls by the High Commissioner for prisoners’ release, Egypt has arrested defenders, journalists, doctors and medical workers for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. We recall that all of the defenders that the Special Procedures and the High Commissioner called for their release since September 2019 are still in pre-trial detention. The Supreme State Security Prosecution and 'Terrorism Circuit courts' in Egypt, are enabling pre-trial detention as a form of punishment including against human rights defenders and journalists and political opponents, such as Ibrahim Metwally, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Patrick Zaky, Ramy Shaat, Eman Al-Helw, Solafa Magdy and Hossam El-Sayed. Once the terrorism circuit courts resumed after they were suspended due to COVID-19, they renewed their detention retroactively without their presence in court. It’s high time the Council holds Egypt accountable.

    As highlighted in a joint statement of Special Procedures, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release HRDs, who include students, activists and protest leaders, arrested for protesting against changes to India’s citizenship laws. Also eleven prominent HRDs continue to be imprisoned under false charges in the Bhima Koregaon case. These activists face unfounded terror charges under draconian laws such as sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. While we welcome that Safoora Zargar was granted bail on humanitarian grounds, the others remain at high risk during a COVID-19 pandemic in prisons with not only inadequate sanitary conditions but also limited to no access to legal counsel and family members. A number of activists have tested positive in prison, including Akhil Gogoi and 80-year-old activist Varavara Rao amid a larger wave of infections that have affected many more prisoners across the country. Such charges against protestors, who were exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly must be dropped. We call on this Council to strengthen their demands to the government of India for accountability over the excessive use of force by the police and other State authorities against the demonstrators.

    In Algeria, between 30 March and 16 April 2020, the Special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, human rights defenders, issued three urgent appeals in relation to cases involving arbitrary and violent arrests, unfair trials and reprisals against human rights defenders and peaceful activists Olaya Saadi, Karim Tabbou and Slimane Hamitouche. Yet, the Council has been silent with no mention of the crackdown on Algerian civil society, including journalists.

    To conclude on a positive note, we welcome the progress in the establishment of the OHCHR country office in Sudan, and call on the international community to continue to provide support where needed to the transitional authorities. While also welcoming their latest reform announcements, we urge the transitional authorities to speed up the transitional process, including reforms within the judiciary and security sectors, in order to answer the renewed calls from protesters for the enjoyment of "freedom, peace and justice" of all in Sudan. We call on the Council to ensure continued monitoring and reporting on Sudan.

    ENDORSEMENTS

    International Service for Human Rights
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    Franciscans International
    The Syrian Legal Development Programme
    Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA World)
    Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    ARTICLE 19
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    IFEX
    Association for Progressive Communications
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    Amnesty International

     


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina FasoBrazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, ItalyJapan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • The International Community Must Support and Protect Palestinian Civil Society

    بالعربية

    As a group of 242 regional and international organisations, we express our full solidarity with Palestinian civil society and human rights defenders as Israel continues to escalate its attacks to shut down critical human rights work and silence opposition to its occupation of Palestinian territory and apartheid over the Palestinian people as a whole. We urge the international community to take all necessary action to support and protect Palestinian civil society and human rights defenders and ensure the continuation of their invaluable work.