UN blasts Israel’s labeling of Palestinian rights groups as “terrorist”

The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has denounced Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist”. She has described the move as an attack on defenders of human rights and freedom of association.

Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist organizations” is an attack on human rights defenders, freedom of association, and the right to public participation, and should be immediately revoked, the UN human rights chief said Tuesday.

Bachelet added the organizations are some of the “most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory” that have worked closely with the UN for decades.

“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 stated in a statement.

She asserted that the designation decisions under the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016 are vague or unsubstantiated.

They included peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, such as providing legal aid to Palestinians in detention, organizing activities for women in the West Bank, and “promoting steps against Israel in the international arena.”

The rights chief reiterated that counter-terrorism legislation must not be applied to legitimate human rights and humanitarian work.

The banning of organizations must not be used to suppress or deny the right to freedom of association, quash political dissent, silence unpopular views, or limit the peaceful activities of civil society.

The national authorities responsible for proscribing organizations must comply fully with international human rights obligations, said the rights office.

These include respecting the principles of legal certainty, proportionality, equality, and non-discrimination.

“Restricting the space for legitimate activities under international law is not only wrong but counter-productive, as it risks limiting the space for peaceful dialogue,” Bachelet continued.

She noted that the organizations include some of the critical partners of the UN Human Rights Office and they face far-reaching consequences due to “this arbitrary decision,” as do those who fund them and work with them.

Bachelet stated, “And the crucial work they perform for thousands of Palestinians risks being halted or severely restricted.”

The published designation decisions by the Israeli Minister of Defense state that the organizations have become the “arm” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

It says that they obtained financial resources, which in practice reached the “(PFLP) terror activity” or supported their activities.

The rights office announced there is no evidence presented to support these accusations, no information on the type of alleged “PFLP terror activity,” nor has any public process been conducted to establish the allegations.

The designations against the six organizations on Oct. 19 are the latest in a long-running series of actions to undermine and restrict human rights defenders and civil society organizations working for the human rights of Palestinians.

These include using military regulations to declare groups unlawful, added the rights office.

The organizations are Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al Haq; Defense for Children International – Palestine; Union of Agricultural Work Committees; Bisan Center for Research and Development; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

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