Human Rights Watch (HRW) Thursday criticized the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) decision to block the registration of legal advocacy group Lawyers for Justice. HRW condemned the move as a thinly-veiled attack and part of an attempt to crush the PA’s critics.
Lawyers for Justice represents Palestinians detained by the PA in the West Bank through the provision of free legal aid. The group also monitors and documents human rights violations in the occupied territories.
The human rights organization Frontline Defenders, which announced the PA’s decision on April 5, says that the “punitive measures” imposed on Lawyers for Justice “will impede its work by blocking its ability to enter into contractual agreements with local or international organizations, or to have a bank account.”
According to HRW, the Palestinian Intelligence Services claim that Lawyers for Justice are “engaged in ‘non-profit activities’ and accepted foreign funding, in violation of their status as a ‘civil corporation,” which is not allowed to engage in nonprofit activity.
Speaking to Human Rights Watch, head of Lawyers of Justice Mohannad Karaje contested the claims, arguing that their registration is in compliance with Palestinian law and that they have operated as a civil corporation for more than 3 years. Lawyers for Justice is challenging the decision in the Palestinian High Court of Justice’s Administrative Court.
HRW has previously investigated the Palestinian authority, finding that the PA routinely arrests people whose peaceful speech “displeases them” and detains them without a reasonable basis. According to a report by Lawyers for Justice, the West Bank has witnessed “a wide deterioration of human rights” with increasing repression of civil and political rights.