Israel-Palestine: Al-Haq human rights lawyer based in The Hague receives death threats, as attacks against the organisation escalate

Urgent Appeal

(Geneva, Paris) A human rights lawyer based in The Hague, Netherlands, who works for the prominent Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, has received multiple death threats over the past week. These threats follow an escalation in attacks and threats on Al-Haq that started in September 2015. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint FIDH-OMCT programme) expresses its utmost concern and call on all competent authorities to ensure that Al-Haq is able to pursue its essential work in the defence of human rights.

Over the past months, Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation based in Ramallah in the West Bank, which has been defending human rights and promoting the rule of law in the occupied Palestinian territory since 1979, has been the target of an increasing number of attacks. In February 2016, the level of attacks escalated, directly targeting Al-Haq’s representative before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. On March 1, 2016, another death threat was directed to her and to Al-Haq’s General Director, Mr. Shawan Jabarin, also FIDH Vice-President, via an anonymous phone call. In the past weeks, many of Al-Haq’s staff members noted unidentified interferences in their e-mails and mobile phones, and found their accounts hacked. Al-Haq has also been subjected to a series of cyber attacks via emails containing Trojan horse viruses which, if not dealt with expediently, would have corrupted files as well as granted access to Al-Haq’s database. The complexity of these attacks confirm that they could only have been perpetrated by an entity with very sophisticated IT resources.

“These coordinated attacks against Al-Haq aim at intimidating the organisation that pressured the PA to join the ICC and that submitted together with Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Aldameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) communications to the ICC Prosecutor’s Office urging it to open an investigation. All acts of harassment and intimidation must immediately stop.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

A smear campaign started in September 2015, with several of Al-Haq’s European donors receiving false letters sent by an alleged official of the Palestinian Authority (PA), claiming that Al-Haq was being investigated by the consulting firm Ernst & Young for “financial irregularities, corruption, fraud and misuse of donations and funds”. Later on, the firm and the PA confirmed that these allegations were false and unfounded in a series of official letters addressed to Al-Haq in November 2015.

“Al-Haq is clearly targeted for its critical work in advocating, documenting and monitoring human rights violations in the Palestinian territory. It is fundamental to stand by this pivotal human rights organisation in the face of these attacks to ensure it can pursue its essential activities in the defence of the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

The increase of attacks coincided with the progress achieved at the level of the ICC and decisions at the EU level regarding the labelling of settlement products. As a result of such advances, there have been direct attacks on Al-Haq from the Israeli Minister of Justice, several Israeli newspapers and Israeli organisations and institutions both at the local level and abroad. The Observatory is concerned that such attacks may have triggered the serious attacks made against Al Haq and its staff since September 2015 and urges the Israeli authorities to guarantee an enabling environment for human rights defenders, including those who defend the rights of the Palestinian people, pursuant to its international human rights commitments.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human rights defenders.

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