32 Dutch NGOs slam Israel’s targeting of Palestinian human rights organisations

Activists hang a poster in solidarity with outlawed Palestinian civil society organizations at the offices of one of them, the human rights group al-Haq, on August 18, 2022

Netherlands (QNN)- Thirty-two Dutch organisations have condemned Israel’s recent raids and closures of several Palestinian Civil Society Organizations in the occupied West Bank, saying this “escalation proves once again that statements by European governments expressing serious concerns are insufficient.”

In the early morning of 18 August 2022, Israeli occupation forces forcibly entered, raided, ransacked and damaged properties of six designated Palestinian civil society organizations: Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defence for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).

According to the groups, the armed military forces bashed through the front doors of the offices, welded iron slabs over their entrances, and affixed to each a military order for the immediate closure of the organization and their offices.

Private property and information from three of the offices were seized, adjoining properties damaged and military debris, including sponge-grenades, teargas canisters, and rubber coated and live bullets, were left around the properties. The violent enforcement of these designations impose financial and safety risks upon these organizations, as their finances and assets may be confiscated and their staff members directly targeted, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.

The office of Health Work Committees (HWC) was also broken into and raided.

According to the military orders, having been previously designated by Israeli occupation as “terrorist” organisations on 19 October 2021 under Israel’s domestic Counter Terrorism Law, 2016, and later under military order on 3 November 2021 as “unlawful associations” per Article 319 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, the offices of the six organisations have been ordered shut as illegal.

In addition, the military order also considers the work activities conducted inside the organizations as illegal.

This weekend, ‘Israel’ also threatened the director of Al Haq (Shawan Jabarin) by telephone and detained the director of Defense for Children International – Palestine (Khaled Quzmar) for several hours for questioning.

In October last year, 32 Dutch organisations condemned Israel’s decision to designate six organisations (now seven) as terrorist on the basis of Israeli anti-terror laws. On 12 July 2022, the Netherlands and eight other EU countries expressed their support for the organisations. The EU countries have so far not seen any evidence of the terrorist designation and therefore rejected the Israeli allegations, as “no substantial information has been received from Israel that would justify a review of our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organisations’”.

In response, the thirty-two Dutch organizations reiterated their support for the Palestinian human rights groups after being raided and shut down by Israeli forces.

“This escalation proves once again that statements by European governments expressing serious concerns are insufficient,” the Dutch groups said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The 32 groups added, “This, together with the killing of critical journalists and other Palestinian civilians with impunity, has reached the point where the international community must set a clear boundary. This is the limit, according to a broad representation of Dutch organisations.”

“What we warned about in October is happening,” the groups said, adding Israel’s action is “in an attempt to suppress the work of human rights defenders” and a “serious violation of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly.”

“This ever-increasing restriction on civil society is not in keeping with a country that claims to be a democratic state based on the rule of law.”

Several of the seven organisations that have been affected provide evidence of alleged war crimes by ‘Israel’ to the International Criminal Court.

The Netherlands, as host country of the ICC, has an “additional responsibility to ensure that civil society organisations, individuals and states can continue to provide the ICC with evidence and information,” the Duch organizations noted

“Without significant action, the longstanding pattern of repression and undermining of Palestinian organisations will further deteriorate.”

“This is unacceptable and it has become clear that statements alone are not enough to make Israel change its policy.”

The Duch organizations have called the international community to” immediately” take serios actions in the face of the threat to the existence of Palestinian civil society organisations and human rights defenders.

The groups also urged “at the highest diplomatic level that Israel withdraws the charges” against the seven organisations and brings the underlying anti-terror legislation into line with international law.

PAX, Amnesty International Nederland, SOMO, The Rights Forum, European Legal Support Center, Defence for Children Nederland, ActionAid Netherlands, Both Ends, Human Security Collective, Stichting Aflatoun International, Right to Play Netherlands, and Transnational Institute (TNI) are among the 32 groups who signed the statement.

(Source / 24.08.2022)

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