UN experts urge Israel to ‘protect, encourage’ Palestine rights defenders

Family members sitting on rubble of their demolished houses in Beit Hanina. Photo:

UN Human Rights Council appointed experts on Friday expressed deep concern over Israeli military interference in the work of a well-known, independent Palestinian child rights organization, in the country’s West Bank.

“During a night-time raid at the end of July, the Israeli forces seized computers, hard drives and other confidential materials from the offices of the NGO, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) in Al-Bireh,” the four independent UN human rights experts said in a statement, calling for the immediate return of the documents and office equipment.

“The indispensable work of Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society organizations has provided a measure of much-needed accountability in documenting and scrutinizing the dispiriting human rights trends in the Palestinian territory,” the statement said.

The Special Rapporteurs also noted that in recent years, DCIP has “critically and reliably” reported on patterns of arrests and the maiming and killings of Palestinian children by the Israelis in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

“The silencing or hindering of these activities violates the fundamental human rights of expression and association, which Israel has committed itself to uphold through its ratification of the two 1966 International Covenants”, they spelled out, referring to one on Civil and Political Rights and the other on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

From the beginning of 2021 until the end of last month, Israeli forces have killed 11 Palestinian children in the West Bank, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

This figure is higher than the total recorded in all of 2020, said the OHCHR.

Moreover, last May, during Israel’s aggression on the Gaza Strip, 67 Palestinian children were killed.

Against the backdrop of long-standing criticisms over an absence of “transparent and impartial investigations” into apparent violations of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli military, the UN experts called upon the state of ‘Israel’ to “work with the international community” to establish an impartial body to conduct “transparent, arm’s length and public investigations” into the deaths.

They stressed that the probes must be consistent with international law and apply subsequent lessons learned to “strenuously avoid such a pattern of tragedy in the future”.

The UN experts called upon the Israeli authorities to fully respect the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which was adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, saying that an ‘occupying power’ with a true commitment to human rights would “protect and encourage” human rights defenders, and “not ostracize, harass or silence them”.

Moreover, that power would respect the “critical scrutiny” of their work – even if the defenders “excoriated” their conduct.


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