Recent crackdown on international human rights defenders

The FIDH and the OMCT, in the framework of their joint programme the Observatory for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deepest concern after Israel�s crackdown on human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territory as Israeli forces arrested several defenders, raided the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the West Bank and imposed new restrictions to foreigners for entry into the Gaza Strip.

According to the information received, on May 9, 2003, the Israeli forces sent a truck and 15 vehicles to the offices of the International Solidarity Movement in Beit Sahour in the West Bank. ISM has deployed dozens of foreign volunteers in West Bank and Gaza combat zones in an effort to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli military actions. In the past months, an American member of the ISM, Rachel Corrie, was killed by a bulldozer during a house demolition, and on May 10, Briton Tom Hurndall was hit by a sniper fire and is listed as clinically dead. During the raid, the soldiers took the laptops and files of the organization.

Miranda Sissons, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher for Israel and the Middle East was detained while making a routine visit to the ISM; a Palestinian and US national were arrested at the same time. Ms. Sissons has been charged with violating a military order banning foreigners from entering Area A of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. She was arrested and held at a facility in Hadera, pending deportation from the country. HRW stressed the fact that the organization�s researchers had conducted monitoring and research in these areas for years, with the full knowledge of the Israeli authorities.

On the same day, several Amnesty International delegates were denied access to Gaza. They refused to comply with a decision from the Israeli authorities, implemented on Friday, May 9, which requires foreigners entering Gaza to sign �waivers� that absolve Israel from responsibility should they be killed or injured. The declaration to be signed states, among other things, that the individual �accepts 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 document further states that �any foreigner should undertake not to disrupt IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) operations in any way�. This waiver is the latest step in a series of measures imposing severe restrictions on internationals entering the Gaza strip. Israeli authorities have restricted access to tourists, journalists, humanitarian and human rights workers and medical personnel, making some individuals wait up to 9 hours for access from the Gaza strip to Israel.

In the latest development, according to information from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), as of May 10, 2003, the Erez border crossing was completely closed to all internationals, except for United Nations staff and diplomats.

The recent measures appear as an attempt by the Israeli army to block foreign scrutiny of its actions and constitute a clear violation of international human rights standards and humanitarian law.

The FIDH and the OMCT ask the Israeli authorities to:

  • immediately put an end to any kind of repression against human rights defenders and human rights organisations, including the ISM and respect the freedom of circulation, as guaranteed in particular by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and freedom of action of human rights defenders
  • 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 Article 1 �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�
  • conform more generally with the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and all other human rights instruments ratified by Israel

    For further information:

    FIDH : t�l : 00 33 1 43 55 20 11, fax : 00 33 1 43 55 18 80; OMCT: t�l: 00 41 22 809 49 39, fax: 00 41 22 809 49 29