UN experts urge end to harassment of human rights defenders in Occupied Palestinian Territory

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst. Photo: MINUSTAH

18 December 2015 – Gravely concerning at continued reports that human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Hebron, are being subjected to physical attacks and death threats, United Nations independent experts today denounced such harassment as “unacceptable” and called for it to end immediately.

According to a press release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), human rights defenders have been subjected to physical attacks, harassment, arrest and detention, and death threats, in an apparent bid by Israeli authorities and settler elements to stop their peaceful and important work.

“Amidst a charged and violent atmosphere over past months in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Palestinian and international defenders are providing a ‘protective presence’ for Palestinians at risk of violence, and documenting human rights violations,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

The continued harassment of human rights defenders in the region, who are exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and association, is simply unacceptable. It should cease immediately,” Mr. Forst stressed.

Earlier this month, a group of UN human rights experts urged the Israeli Government to ensure a protective environment where human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory can work without unlawful restriction and without fear of retaliatory acts.

“We recently addressed concerns to the Israeli Government regarding retaliatory acts by Israeli authorities against members of one organisation based in Hebron, Youth Against Settlements, after its Centre was subjected to raids and settlers allegedly called for it to be closed,” noted the UN Special Rapporteur the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Makarim Wibisono.

He noted that the Centre has now effectively been shut down as a result of the Israeli military declaring the surrounding area a military zone.

“We urge Israeli authorities to lift this military order,” added Mr. Widisono.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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