UN Rights Chief Slams Israel’s Terror Classification of Palestinian NGOs

Michelle Bachelet says Israel's designation of six Palestinian organizations as terror groups 'based on extremely vague or unsubstantiated reasons'

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, last month.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, last month.Credit: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

The United Nations’ human rights commissioner condemned Israel’s decision to classify six Palestinian organizations as terrorist entities on Tuesday, saying it should be immediately reversed.

Israel’s move was “an attack on human rights defenders, on freedoms of association, opinion and expression and on the right to public participation,” wrote High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

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Bachelet’s statement said the organizations designated as terror groups “are some of the most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory and for decades have worked closely with the UN.”

She further wrote that Israel’s decision was “based on extremely vague or unsubstantiated reasons, including entirely peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, such as providing legal aid to Palestinians in detention, organizing activities for women in the West Bank and promoting steps against Israel in the international arena.’”

Bachelet asserted that “[c]laiming rights before a UN or other international body is not an act of terrorism, advocating for the rights of women in the occupied Palestinian territory is not terrorism, and providing legal aid to detained Palestinians is not terrorism.”

She noted that Israel had claimed the organizations had become arms of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but provided no evidence and “no information on the type of alleged ‘PFLP terror activity,’ nor has any public process been conducted to establish the allegations.”

The six groups designated as terror organizations – including both human rights groups and civil society groups – were Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. A joint statement by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called the decision “appalling and unjust.” The U.S. said it had not received prior notification of the decision.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s foreign ministry said that Israeli accusations that civil society groups were linked to the PFLP and that Swedish aid money was being misused have been heard before, but were never proven.

The European Union Delegation to the Palestinians also wrote on Twitter that a representative of the EU and representatives from other countries had met with representatives of the six civil society organizations, and that the EU representative “clarified that the EU takes this very seriously and is seeking clarifications with Israeli partners.”

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