Amnesty International issued a report this week calling on the Israeli authorities to end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs) and halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
According to the report, Israel is routinely violating Palestinians rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association in the OPT and are targeting HRDs, including by arbitrary arrest and detention, imprisonment, injury and torture. Israel authorities also are failing to protect HRDs from attacks by Israeli settlers and other extreme right wing activists, and in some cases they have been complicit in such attacks.
The report of Amnesty International lists a number of specific situations where human rights defenders have been intimidated, threatened by death, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.
In February and March 2016, a staff member and the director of Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights NGO, were subjected to a number of death threats. According to the report, these threats are directly connected to the organisations work with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Israeli ministers allegedly made calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, against Omar Barghouti, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist, at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016. Continue reading
Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez
IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders
Following information received in recent years by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) through public hearings and visits, criminal law is allegedly being used against human rights defenders in some countries in retaliation for their work in defending and promoting human rights. Regarding this issue, the Commission, in its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, expressed its concern regarding the issue of criminalization, understood as opening groundless criminal investigations or judicial actions against human rights defenders which not only has a chilling effect on their work, but can also paralyze their efforts to defend human rights since their time, resources, and energy must be devoted to their own defense.
As noted by the Commission, criminalization of the defense of human rights is a complex phenomenon that may be perpetrated in different ways, by both state and individual actors. According to the information received by the IACHR, in some States both public officials and private individuals –including businesses or employees of private companies, for example– reportedly use criminal law to subject human rights defenders to legal proceedings in order to repress or discourage social protest or criticism of public officials. Often, these cases are said to be based on criminal charges devised in ways that run contrary to international law. Moreover, in some States, legal bodies reportedly issue precautionary measures in criminal cases, such as pretrial detention or bond, presumably in order to discourage and restrict the efforts of human rights defenders during critical junctures in the causes they are defending.
Given the seriousness of the situation, the IACHR Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders published a questionnaire of consultation with States and civil society for the elaboration of a report on the the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders through the Misuse of Criminal Law.
The answers must be sent here before October 16, 2014 with the following words in the Subject: Questionnaire on Criminalization.