Israel: Democracies do not close human rights entities

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By PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO*

When human rights defenders are attacked, no matter the country, we must show solidarity

For four years, from 2003 to 2007, I worked as an Independent Expert for the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), appointed by Kofi Annan, to prepare the World Report on Violence against Children, published in 2006. I visited sixty-five countries and organized nine major meetings on different continents. I have always relied on the collaboration, in addition to the UN agencies, of civil society organizations such as the Defense for Children International (Defense for Children International – DCI), created in 1979 to promote and protect the rights articulated in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, with bases in 38 countries and representation at the UN in New York. In Palestine, offer legal assistance to the 175 children imprisoned in Israel, some as young as 10 years old.

What was my horror when I read in Haaretz, Israel's oldest and most prestigious newspaper, that on August 15 Israeli security forces raided and sealed off the offices of the Defense for Children International in Ramallah. In addition to this, other Palestinian human rights organizations – recognized by the major Israeli human rights organizations – were affected, such as Al-Haq, the oldest, which resorts to international law to combat the military occupation and violence of Israeli settlers, the Association for Human Rights and Prisoner Support (Addameer), the Union of Agricultural Work Commissions, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Women's Union Committees and the Union of Health Work Committees.

These groups have the same profile as the Arns Commission. They work, like us, with women, children, peasant families, prisoners and civil society activists. All involved in documenting human rights abuses by Israel, but also violations by the Palestinian Authority, when it arrests activists and opposition.

Those raids The brutal attacks stem from the Israeli government's accusation of these organizations as 'terrorist organizations', without any concrete and credible public evidence of their alleged links to terrorism. This designation has been condemned by our partners such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which considered it a “frontal attack on the Palestinian human rights movement and human rights around the world”.

right after those raids, to express its support for the entities, 17 diplomatic missions – of course, Brazil, no way! – met in Ramallah with the leaders of those entities: Germany, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Poland, United Kingdom, Sweden, European Union (EU).

The United States said that "independent civil society organizations in the West Bank and Israel must be able to continue their important work." Josep Borrell, head of EU diplomacy, said that “the European Union will continue to respect international law and support civil society organisations”. The OHCHR stated that, with no evidence to justify these actions, "the closures appear wholly arbitrary". For the UN Secretary-General, “in all countries, authorities need to take special care to ensure that human rights groups and civil society organizations can carry out their work without impediment”, and called for the protection of those civil society groups Palestine.

Here, they will repeat, why this fixation with Palestinians and Israel? This country has occupied the West Bank for 55 years, subjecting its inhabitants to a legal regime of apartheid on two levels: the approximately 390 Jewish settlers live under Israeli civil law and its more than 2 million Palestinian neighbors, under military rule. Despite this, Israel presents itself to the world, and here in Brazil, as the “only democracy in the Middle East”.

Now, democracies do not persecute human rights defenders, do not accuse their organizations of terrorism without proof, nor invade, confiscate their files and seal their offices to silence them. These practices only occur in autocracies and dictatorships, as happened here in Brazil for 21 years.

Those raids they are attacks against the global human rights movement that we in Brazil hold dear. When human rights defenders are attacked, no matter the country, we must show solidarity. Just as we needed external solidarity when we were under a dictatorship. And that we will need again, if the extreme right is not defeated in the October elections.

*Paulo Sergio Pinheiro he is a retired professor of political science at USP; former Minister of Human Rights; UN Special Rapporteur on Syria and member of the Arns Commission. Author, among other books, of Strategies of illusion: the world revolution and Brazil, 1922-1935 (Company of Letters).

 

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