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Shin Bet threatens Palestinian NGO director

"The work of those civil society organizations is legal and compliant, and their legitimacy comes from their right to defend human rights."

Jerusalem24 – The Israeli Security Service, or Shin Bet, threatened Director General of Al-Haq Shawan Jabarin  yesterday during a phone call in which they summoned him to Ofer military prison for interrogation. Director General of Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCIP) was summoned a few hours later.

Jabarin was warned he would “pay a price” if Al-Haq continued its work.

Al-Haq and DCIP are two of seven civil society organizations raided and shuttered by Israeli forces on Thursday.

Zafer Saaydah from Lawyers for Justice tells Jerusalem24 that the threats, as well as the harassment of staff and the closure of the NGOs’ offices, are “not the first of its kind, and of course it is condemned and unacceptable, demagogic.”

“It reflects how unjust and oppressive the Israeli occupation is, and how the Israeli occupation is not committing to international law and international treaties which protect human rights defenders and the work they do.”

“Reality is defined by those who hold the power”

Saaydah says that international treaties and law do protect the activities and work done by civil society organizations, and that therefore “the action of the Israeli occupation authorities is a null and void action.”

However, Saaydah points out, the reality of the situation is defined by those who hold the power – in this case, the Israeli authorities.

The responsibility “falls on the international community to intervene and put a stop to those actions.”

“In its essence and core the work of those civil society organizations is legal and compliant, and their legitimacy comes from their right to defend human rights according to international treaties and Palestinian law,” asserts Saaydah. “Everything else that stops or prevents this work from being done is a result of the occupation, and the occupation in its core is null and obsolete.”

Denied legal counsel

On 21 August at 9:31am, Israeli Forces summoned Jabarin for interrogation at Ofer military base, located near Ramallah, in a phone call to Jabarin.

The caller, who introduced himself as Captain Fahed, informed Jabarin that Israel and the Israeli army declared Al-Haq an illegal entity and a terrorist organization, and that it was shut down.

The caller stated that Israel would not allow the organization to remain open and functioning. The caller then claimed that Al-Haq has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and that Jabarin is one of its members.

On the same day at 2.25pm, lawyer and General Director DCIP, Khaled Quzmar, was also summoned for interrogation at the Ofer military base by a Shin Bet agent.

At 3.20pm an eyewitness reported seeing Quzmar escorted into Shin Bet premises. Quzmar was not allowed to have legal counsel accompany him.

He was released two hours later, according to DCIP’s social media accounts.

Al-Haq sent more than 80 letters to third state parties on Sunday, 21 August, calling for action to protect the two NGO directors and their staff.

Separately, Al-Haq sent an appeal to UN Special Procedures urgently demanding that the international community immediately take targeted and effective action:

“The situation has significantly deteriorated and the staff of the six designated organizations and the Health Work Committee are under grave and immediate risk of arbitrary arrest, prosecution on secret evidence, administrative detention, and appropriation of their financial and banking assets. Further, the human rights and humanitarian work of the organizations, is gravely threatened by these closures.”

Over 50 Israeli human rights organizations have announced their support for the seven organizations and shared a statement in which they “repudiate these baseless declarations and call on the international community to pressure Israel to revoke its decision.”

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