UN rights experts denounce Israel for increased restrictions on human rights advocates
UN rights experts denounce Israel for increased restrictions on human rights advocates

Two UN rights experts called [press release] Friday for the Israeli government to discontinue policies that constrain human rights defenders. UN Special Rapporteurs Michael Lynk and Michel Forst [official profile] say the increased restrictions, which primarily affect advocates in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, are related to three recent developments. First, they are concerned with the dispersal of a peaceful protest on February 24 [TOI report], organized annually by a number of human rights organizations and designed to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, by the Israeli military using tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets. They are also concerned about a bill [Knesset press release] introduced in the Israeli Knesset [website] that “would require all Israeli non-governmental organizations receiving more than half of their funding from foreign public sources to pay fees associated with requests filed under the country’s Freedom of Information Act.” The bill will primarily affect human rights organizations, according to the statement. Finally, the experts criticized the Israeli government for denying a visa to Omar Shakir [NYT report], an investigator with Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. Israeli officials have accused HRW of publishing Palestinian propaganda, and being “systematically biased against Israel,” according to Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry. HRW has denied these charges.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been at the forefront of recent international news and reports. Last month Amnesty International urged [JURIST report] the Israeli Supreme Court to repeal a 2003 law that bans many Palestinians from entering the country, including those who are seeking reunification with their families. In January Benjamin Netanyahu said he will be lifting restrictions [JURIST report] on Israelis building settlements in East Jerusalem. Also in January US President Donald Trump was warned [JURIST report] by Palestinian leaders not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. In December a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned remarks [JURIST report] made by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry on the current Israeli government. In a speech given in December Kerry criticized the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, stating that such actions jeopardize prospects of peace in the Middle East. Netanyahu in December summoned [JURIST report] the ambassadors of the 14 UN Security Council members who supported a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement in Palestine to rebuke them for the vote. Following the passage of this resolution, Netanyahu also ordered the country’s foreign ministers to reevaluate Israel’s ties to the UN within the month.