Israel / Occupied Palestinian Territory: ongoing smear campaign against Al-Haq staff members Mr. Shawan Jabarin and Ms. Nada Kiswanson

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing smear campaign against Mr. Shawan Jabarin, Al-Haq’s General Director and FIDH Secretary General, and Ms. Nada Kiswanson, a human rights lawyer who represents Al-Haq in Europe and before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands.

According to the information received, on October 23, 2017, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center [1] published an article in which Mr. Jabarin is depicted as a “former member of a terrorist organisation” – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and entitled: “Shawan Jabarin, former PFLP operative and current head of a Palestinian human rights NGO, recently submitted a report to the prosecutor of the ICC accusing Israel of “war crimes,” expecting the prosecutor to launch an investigation against Israel”.

The article further writes that “Mr. Jabarin wears two hats, one as a terrorist operative and the other as an activist in an organization that presents itself as a human rights organization”, and that “Mr. Jabarin travels extensively around the world to promote the “lawfare” and propaganda campaign against Israel”.

The article, which also mentions Ms. Kiswanson, denounces the submission in September 2017 by Al-Haq of a report exposing Israel’s war crimes to the ICC Prosecutor.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center publishes defaming articles targeting Mr. Jabarin. In 2013, the online media titled “Terrorism and human rights: Shawan Jabarin, human rights organisations director and PFLP terrorist activist recently visited France to participate in the anti-Israeli campaign”.

The increased attacks against Al-Haq coincide with progress achieved at the level of the ICC and decisions at the EU level regarding the labelling of settlement products. As a result of such advances, several Israeli newspapers, organisations and institutions have attacked Al-Haq and sought to discredit the organisation.

Officials at the highest level have also been reportedly attempting to prevent donors from working with Al-Haq (see background information). In addition, several donors have been reportedly experiencing difficulties in transferring funds to Al-Haq. On several occasions since the beginning of 2017, funds sent to Al-Haq were returned by the correspondent bank.

When inquiring about the transfer, Al-Haq and donors were told that letters using the Palestinian Monetary Authority letterhead had been sent to them, accusing Al-Haq not to be eligible for the transfer of funds. The Palestinian Monetary Authority has denied sending such letters.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms this ongoing smear campaign targeting Al-Haq and its members on baseless accusations. The Observatory denounces an evident retaliation of Al-Haq’s peaceful and legitimate activities, in particular in collaborating with the international criminal justice system.

The Observatory urges all competent authorities in Israel to investigate the situation and to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in order to create an environment where human rights defenders can operate freely. The authorities in Israel should in particular refrain from making any depreciating comments on human rights defenders and publicly support the important role played by human rights defenders, including those critical of the country’s human rights record.

Background information [2]:

The smear campaign targeting Al-Haq and its members has been escalating since September 2015, when several of Al-Haq’s European donors received false letters sent by an alleged official of the Palestinian Authority (PA), claiming that Al-Haq was being investigated by the consulting firm Ernst & Young for “financial irregularities, corruption, fraud and misuse of donations and funds”. Later on, the firm and the PA confirmed that these allegations were false and unfounded in a series of official letters addressed to Al-Haq in November 2015.

On November 23, 2015 and on February 10, 2016, Al Haq submitted together with Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Aldameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) communications to the ICC Prosecutor’s Office, urging it to open an investigation.

In February, July and August 2016, Ms. Kiswanson and her family received frequent phone calls, emails and messages through other means that explicitly and indirectly threatened her life and security.

In March 2016, Al-Haq was the target of a series of cyber-attacks via emails containing Trojan horse viruses which, if not dealt with expediently, would have corrupted files as well as granted access to Al-Haq’s database. The complexity of these attacks confirms that they could only have been perpetrated by an entity with very sophisticated IT resources.

Coincidently, there have been direct attacks on Al-Haq from the Israeli Minister of Justice, several Israeli newspapers and Israeli organisations and institutions both at the local level and abroad. On June 29, 2017, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Ambassador Danny Danon, on the occasion of a media stake-out in front of the Security Council linked “Al Haq (…), led by Shawan Jabarin” to the so-called “PFLP terrorist organisation”. Ambassador Danon went on falsely characterising Al-Haq and Al Mezan, another Palestinian human rights organisation, as “supporters of terrorism”, and “inciters of violence”.

In July 2017, Irish officials reported to Al-Haq, while in Ramallah, that Prime Minister Netanyahu had directly mentioned Al-Haq to the Irish Foreign Minister, asking him not to fund the organisation.

In September 2017, fake recruitment announcements were advertised on job listing websites hosted in Saudi Arabia and Palestine, alleging that Al-Haq was recruiting for IT roles. When tracing back the announcement, it appears that request for advertisement were made under fake Al-Haq email addresses hosted in Romania.

(Source / 13.11.2017)

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