UN rights chief slams ‘arbitrary’ Israel decision to label Palestinian NGOs as terror groups

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday that Israel’s decision to designate six Palestinian human rights NGOs as terror groups was an attack on human rights defenders, on freedoms of association, opinion and expression and on the right to public participation.

The UN human rights chief called for the move to be immediately revoked, saying an anti-terrorism legislation should not be applied to legitimate human rights and humanitarian aid activities.

“The organizations… face far-reaching consequences as a result of this arbitrary decision, as do the people who fund them and work with them,” said Bachelet.

“The crucial work they perform for thousands of Palestinians risks being halted or severely restricted,” she added.

Bachelet said the decision would have “a chilling effect” on human rights defenders.

“Claiming rights before a UN or other international body is not an act of terrorism, advocating for the rights of women in the occupied Palestinian territory is not terrorism, and providing legal aid to detained Palestinians is not terrorism,” Bachelet said.

Bachelet, in her Tuesday statement, added that no evidence has been presented to support the allegations against the six groups, nor had any public process been conducted to establish the accusations.

On Friday, the Israeli occupation government declared six leading Palestinian NGOs to be affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): Addameer, Al Haq, Bisan Center, DCI-P, Samidoun and UAWC.

Under Israeli law, membership in terror organizations is punishable by five to seven years in jail, while aiding them is punishable by five years, and praising or promoting them can result in a three-year-long jail sentence.

The Israeli law also permits authorities to confiscate any “terror organization’s” assets and limit its use of space.

The occupation state has targeted civil society dissenters for decades. In the early 2000s however, a series of right-wing organizations, funders and politicians sought to support the Israeli government’s brutal repression of Palestinians by accelerating the attack on civil society dissenters as Israel’s abuses mounted.

In the mid to late aughts, several Israeli human rights organizations came under organized attack, including groups like B’tselem, Yesh Din.

In 2019, Israeli authorities expelled Human Rights Watch’s director in Palestine, Omar Shakir, who is an American citizen after revoking his work visa, accusing him of supporting the BDS movement.

Israel’s decision on Friday sparked a swift backlash around the globe, with the EU, US Jewish NGOs, progressive Democrats, and international human rights organizations expressing criticism.

(Source / 27.10.2021)

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