International Rights Groups Decry Increased Harassment of Monitors


Amnesty International, the Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights
(EMNHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Commission of Jurists
(ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World
Organisation against Torture (OMCT) are deeply concerned about the increase of
Israeli restrictions against human rights and humanitarian workers.

On May 21, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom said that "most human
rights offices in the West Bank and Gaza strip provide shelter for Palestinian
This comment has no basis in fact and constitutes a further threat to the work of
independent human rights organizations and workers in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories. "We fear that such unsupported allegations are intended to intimidate
local and international human rights defenders, and to prevent them from carrying out
their daily work," the organizations said.
Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have long suffered crippling
restrictions on freedom of movement. Researchers carry out their work under
circumstances of considerable personal danger, and many have suffered intimidation
and harassment by the Israeli authorities and army while carrying out their work.
"In light of the Minister’s comments we fear such intimidation and harassment will
further increase. Recently, threats to personal safety and restrictions on the activities
of local and international human rights and humanitarian workers and peace activists
have sharply increased", said the organizations.
This year alone, the Israeli army has killed a foreign peace activist, Rachel Corrie and
gravely injured two others, Tom Hurndall and Brian Avery. A foreign journalist,
James Miller, was also shot dead by Israeli soldiers. A military investigation
undertaken into Rachel Corrie’s killing reportedly found no wrongdoing, although the
full findings have not been made public. It is not known whether the other events have
been investigated: certainly, no findings on any of these killings or injuries have been
released, and no judicial action taken.
At the same time, international human rights workers and peace activists are
increasingly being arrested and threatened with deportation by the Israeli authorities.
At least two have been deported in recent weeks, and several others are facing
deportation orders. At least six foreign humanitarian workers have been refused entry
to Israel, and growing restrictions are imposed on movement and activities of those
already present in the country.
Of particular concern is the decision of the Israeli authorities on 9 May to condition
entry of foreigners into the Gaza Strip to their signing a "waiver" which seeks to
absolve Israel from responsibility for any death or injury caused by Israeli soldiers.
Among other things, the "waiver" states that those entering the Gaza Strip: "accept
that the government of the state of Israel and its organs cannot be held responsible for
death, injury and/or damage/loss of property which may be incurred as a result of
military activity".
The Gaza Strip was subsequently closed and remains inaccessible to foreigners,
except diplomats and selected emergency relief workers.
These restrictions on the movement and activities of local and international human
rights and humanitarian workers, peace activists, journalists and others are intended to
reduce independent scrutiny of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian
"Such restrictions on independent monitoring serious human rights violations can
only aggravate the current atmosphere of impunity."
The organizations called on Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and the Israeli authorities
- Retract publicly the unfounded allegations made by Minister Shalom on 21
May 2003;
- Put an end to harassment, intimidation, threats, and deliberate attacks on
human rights defenders;
- Cease arbitrarily arresting human rights defenders and foreign nationals.
Those arrested should be charged with a recognized criminal offense, based on
factual and public evidence;
- Abide by the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders adopted on December 9, 1998 by the UN General Assembly and in
particular its Article 1, which states that: "Everyone has the right, individually
and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and
realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and
international level;"
- Immediately lift the restrictions on access imposed on the Gaza Strip and
facilitate development work, humanitarian aid and human rights monitoring by
providing full and unrestricted access to all; and
- Conform with international human rights and humanitarian law in all actions
and ensure that all killings and other violations are thoroughly and
independently investigated.

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