Question of Palestine home
4 March 2009
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Agenda item 3
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS,
CIVIL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya*
* Late submission.
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received*
** The present document is being circulated in the languages of submission only, as it greatly exceeds the word limitations currently imposed by the relevant General Assembly resolutions.
1. The present document is submitted by the then Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms Hina Jilani, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders, Ms Margaret Sekaggya, to the Human Rights Council, pursuant to resolutions 5/1 and 7/8 of the Human rights Council. The Special Rapporteur took up her functions on 1 May 2008. The document provides summaries of the communications on specific cases addressed by the then Special Representative and the Special Rapporteur to Governments, as well as summaries of the replies by Governments received and their observations thereon.
2. The cases raised by the then Special Representative and the Special Rapporteur in this addendum include communications sent from 11 December 2007 to 10 December 2008. The addendum contains summaries of responses received from Governments until 10 February 2009. Although received before 10 February 2009, few replies are not included in the present report because translation is awaited. Most of the responses by Governments refer to cases raised by the then Special Representative and the Special Rapporteur during the period December 2007 to December 2008; however, some of the responses are to cases addressed by them in earlier reporting periods. While the summaries of these responses are included in this report, the summaries of the cases to which they refer will be found in the then Special Representative’s reports from preceding years (see A/HRC/7/28/Add.1, A/HRC/4/37/Add.1, and E/CN.4/2006/95/Add.1, covering the previous three years).
3. For ease of reference, cases have been grouped by country, with countries listed alphabetically according to their names in English.
Letter of allegations
983. On 1 February 2008, the then Special Representative sent a letter of allegations to the Government concerning Mr Issa ‘Amro, field-worker with B'Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories).
984. According to information received, on 19 January 2008, Mr Issa ‘Amro was reportedly filming an alleged disturbance by settlers in Wadi Hsein, East Hebron, with another staff member of B'Tselem when he was ordered by the commander of the Shimshon battalion to stop filming. Mr Issa ‘Amro was surrounded by a group of settlers who attempted to take his camera. They were then joined by soldiers who reportedly assaulted Mr Issa ‘Amro before arresting him and taking him to an army vehicle where they continued to beat him. It was reported that Mr Issa ‘Amro was arrested on suspicion of attacking soldiers, whereas B’Tselem is reportedly in possession of video footage as evidence that Mr Issa ‘Amro was attacked by the soldiers.
985. On 21 January 2008, Mr Issa 'Amro was released. A restriction order was issued against him, prohibiting him from entering the Israeli settlements for fifteen days. On 23 January 2008, the restriction order was cancelled. Concern was expressed that the arrest, detention and physical assault against Mr Issa ‘Amro may be linked to his peaceful activities in defence of human rights.
Letter of allegations
986. On 28 July 2008, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, sent a letter of allegations to the Government in relation to Mr
, general director of Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in the occupied West Bank. On 16 March 2007, Mr Shawan Jabarin was the subject of a joint urgent appeal sent by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders. The urgent appeal referred to travel restrictions against Mr Shawan Jabarin imposed on 23 March 2006. No response has yet been received from the Government.
987. According to information received, on 7 July 2008, the Israeli High Court rejected Mr Shawan Jabarin’s petition to have the travel restrictions against him lifted. Previous petitions filed by Mr Shawan Jabarin against the travel restrictions were rejected in December 2006 and June 2007. With the travel restrictions in place Mr Shawan Jabarin is not permitted to leave the West Bank.
988. The High Court’s refusal to lift the travel restrictions against Mr Shawan Jabarin was reportedly based on secret information provided by the military and examined ex parte. This information allegedly justified the Israeli High Court’s decision by proving that Mr Shawan Jabarin was a security risk. Given that neither Mr Shawan Jabarin nor his lawyer were able to gain knowledge of why the travel restrictions were in place, it was impossible to defend Mr Shawan Jabarin. Because he could not leave the West Bank, Mr Shawan Jabarin was unable to represent his organization at various events in other countries.
989. Concern was expressed that no reasons for the travel ban imposed against Mr Shawan Jabarin were given and as a consequence he could not effectively continue his non-violent activities in defence of human rights in the occupied West Bank territory.
Response from the Government
990. In a letter dated 31 July 2008, the the Permanent Mission of Israel responded to the letter of allegations sent on 28 July 2008, acknowledging its receipt and informing that it had been transferred to the relevant authorities in Israel.
Letter of allegations
991. On 28 July 2008, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, sent a letter of allegations concerning the
Nafha Society for the Defense of Prisoners and Human Rights
, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which was registered with the Palestinian Authority in 2006. The Nafha Society represents Palestinian detainees in Israeli courts, helps prisoners to become reintegrated with society after being released and offers social and psychological support to prisoners’ families.
992. On 2 August 2007, Mr
, Executive Director of the Nafha Society was reportedly arrested without a warrant by Israeli soldiers. On 26 August 2007, the Salem Military Court sentenced him to six months’ administrative detention. This meant that by law it was neither necessary for charges to be brought against him nor for him to be allowed a trial. He was released on 24 February 2008. This case was the subject of an urgent appeal sent by the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders on 31 August 2007. No response has yet been received to the communication.
993. According to information received, on 8 July 2008, the Nafha Society and six other organizations were closed for two years by the Israeli authorities following the issuing of a military order by the Israeli Military Commander in the occupied West Bank. The reason given for the closure was that the organizations were involved in the financing of terrorist organizations. This allegation is strongly denied by the Nafha Society.
994. Concern was expressed that the closure of the Nafha Society may be related to its work in defense of human rights, in particular its work to provide legal, psychological, medical support to Palestinian prisoners in Israel and their families. Further concern was expressed that these incidents may form part of a pattern of harassment against human rights defenders in the occupied West Bank.
Response from the Government
995. In a letter dated 31 October 2008, the Government responded to the communication sent on 28 July 2008. The Government reported that the Nafha Society for the Defense of Prisoners and Human Rights substituted and continued the work of the “Friends of the Prisoner Society” (also known as “Ansar El-Sageen”). On 31 August 2006, the Minister of Defense declared the “Friends of the Prisoner Society” to be an unlawful organization based on its connections with the Hamas terrorist organization. This decision stated that the declaration is also valid for any other name in which the organization shall be named in the future, including any section, branch, center, committee, group or fraction of it. As a result, although the organization changed its name, according to the Minister’s decision it remains an unlawful organization. Furthermore, according to information presented to the Minister of Defense and the Commander of the IDF forces in the West Bank, the Nafha Society continues to maintain various connections with the Hamas terrorist organization. Due to all of the above and the threat posed by the Nafha Society for public safety and the security of the State of Israel, the decision remains firm.
Letter of allegations
996. On 14 August 2008, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, sent a letter of allegations to the Government concerning Mr
, a field worker for Al-Haq.
997. According to information received, on 24 July 2008, at approximately 2 p.m., Mr Yusuf Qawariq was arrested by Israeli forces. Mr Yusuf Qawariq had been passing through the Huwara checkpoint on his way out of Nablus in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. He used his Palestinian identity card and his Al-Haq employee card to identify himself but was accused of using false United Nations (UN) identification because it states on his Al-Haq card that the organization has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN. Mr Yusuf Qawariq was then detained for three hours in a small cell. Soldiers told the mayor of the village of Awarta that Mr Yusuf Qawariq was carrying false UN identification and that his arrest was due to his work in monitoring and documenting the Israeli military’s actions.
998. Concern was expressed that the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr Yusuf Qawariq may have been related to his legitimate work in the defense of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Further concern was expressed that this may form part of an ongoing pattern of harassment against human rights defenders in the West Bank, in particular members of Al-Haq.
Letter of allegations
999. On 5 November 2008, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders sent a letter of allegations to the Government regarding the prevention of approximately 120 international academics and human rights defenders from entering Gaza to attend a conference being held by the
(GCMHP) and the
1000. According to the information received, on 27 and 28 October 2008, the 5th international conference of the Mental Health Programme, titled “Siege and Mental Health, Walls vs. Bridges” was scheduled to be held by the GCMHP and the WHO in Gaza City. However, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) denied entry permits to approximately 120 international academics, human rights defenders and physicians who were due to participate in the conference and prevented them from entering Gaza via Beit Hanoon (Erez checkpoint). Military authorities reportedly also forbade the entry of members of the “Physicians for Human Rights”, a Tel-Aviv based NGO; as well as of Palestinian physicians and academics from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The names of the participants were reportedly submitted through the WHO to the IOF over a month before the conference in order to allow enough time to gain permission for them to attend.
1001. Concern was expressed that the international academics and human rights defenders who were due to participate in the conference of the GCMHP and the WHO may have been prevented from entering Gaza because of their activities in the defense of human rights. Further concern was expressed that this incident may have formed part of an ongoing pattern of restriction of movement against human rights defenders wishing to enter or leave Gaza.
1002. The Special Rapporteur wished to thank the Government of Israel for the responses provided to her communications of 28 July 2008 (two communications), but regrets that at the time of the finalization of the report, the Government had not transmitted a reply to her communications of 1 February 2008, 14 August 2008 and 5 November 2008. She considers response to her communications as an important part of the cooperation of Governments with her mandate, and urges the Government to respond to the concerns raised by her. She urges the Government to transmit replies to her communications, including substantive information regarding the case of Mr Shawan Jabarin.