Harassment and Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders in Palestine
On 16th August, Frontline Defenders launched an urgent appeal to highlight death threats made against local group, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights. Staff at Al Mezan have received a number of threatening phone calls and death threats as a result of their human rights work. The appeal has drawn attention to the challenging environment faced by those carrying out monitoring of human rights abuses, which is driven by a lack of protection for civil society by Israeli authorities and Palestinian entities in Gaza. Given the continuous threats against human rights defenders, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council has also communicated its concerns to Israeli authorities over the threatening environment and cyber attacks they regularly face. The Council demanded an immediate investigation by local and international authorities into these threats.
Human Rights Defenders' freedom of movement is also still being restricted in Palestine. On 16th August, Gaza’s government security forces prevented Dr. Kamal Al Sharafi from traveling via Erez crossing to Ramallah in the West Bank. Dr. Al Shrafi is the President’s Consultant for Human Rights and was recently appointed Chancellor of Al Aqsa University in Gaza. Local groups have been quick to condemn the authorities' actions and emphasised that freedom of movement is a fundamental right.
Civic space was undermined in the Gaza Strip after the Ministry of the Interior alleged that some CSOs are complicit in terrorist financing, corruption and bribery. Amjad Shawa, Gaza director of the Palestinian NGO Network, criticised such allegations as dangerous and claimed they could lead to the withdrawal of international organisations and even further restrictions on the activities of CSOs and their projects on the ground. Mr. Shawa also noted that restrictions continue to be imposed, despite several self-accountability initiatives by civil society including the adoption of a code of conduct, and rules of procedures. Numerous CSOs provide vital humanitarian and social services to people living in the Gaza strip.