In the early morning of 18 August 2022, Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) forcibly entered, raided, ransacked and damaged properties of six designated Palestinian civil society organizations: Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defence for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). Armed military forces bashed through the front doors of the offices, welded iron slabs over their entrances, and affixed to each a military order for the immediate closure of the organization and their offices. Private property and information from three of the offices were seized, adjoining properties damaged and military debris, including sponge-grenades, teargas canisters, and rubber coated and live bullets, were left around the properties. The violent enforcement of these designations impose financial and safety risks upon these organizations, as their finances and assets may be confiscated and their staff members directly targeted, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. The office of Health Work Committees (HWC) was also broken into and raided.
According to the military orders, having been previously designated by Israel as “terrorist” organisations on 19 October 2021 under Israel’s domestic Counter Terrorism Law, 2016, and later under military order on 3 November 2021 as “unlawful associations” per Article 319 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, the offices of the six organisations have been ordered shut as illegal. In addition, the military order also considers the work activities conducted inside the organizations as illegal. The orders attempt to terminate our organizations’ civil society work defending human rights, documenting Israeli violations of international law, and upholding international rule of law, far exceeding the authority granted to the military commander under Article 43 of the Hague Regulations (1907), and further violates the fundamental humanitarian rights guarantees of protected persons under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949). We further recall the condemnation of UN Experts that Israel’s “misuse of counter-terrorism measures in this way by the government of Israel undermines the security of all”.
Israel’s unlawful and aggressive incursion poses an existential threat to Palestinian civil society. The attack seeks to dismantle crucial mechanisms that work to uphold human rights and end Israel’s settler colonial and apartheid regime, which systematically denies the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and the right of refugees to return. The closure of the organizations follows a failure of the international community to take meaningful concrete actions to hold Israel accountable for designating the organizations as grave violations of international law, including persecution and apartheid. The six designated organizations once again call on the international community to urgently intervene against Israel’s actions, work collectively to demand the rescinding of the designations that violate Palestinians’ freedoms of opinion, expression and association, and freedom from arbitrary arrests and detentions, and demand an end to Israel’s apartheid regime, prosecutable under Article 7(2)(h) of the Rome Statute, and military occupation of Palestine.
The dismantling of Palestinian civil society is a dangerous and repressive measure, designed to quash human rights investigation, monitoring and oversight of governing authorities in the OPT, with widespread and generational consequences for the protected civilian population. Third States must intervene when jus cogens norms, which apply erga omnes obligations are breached. This is the responsibility of all States, to end the designations, as the inhumane acts of an aggressive, expansionist, annexationist, apartheid regime, wielding the full military apparatus of unconstrained authority.