On 28 February 2023, pursuant to a call for input issued by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Defense for Children – Palestine (DCI-P), the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) sent a joint submission for the benefit of the Special Rapporteur’s upcoming global study on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on civil society and civic space. Specifically, the submission highlights Israel’s application of the Counter-Terrorism Law, and the 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations to persecute and outlaw Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organisations, in the maintenance of its apartheid regime – which is inherently a structural element of Zionist settler-colonialism.
The submission underscores the overbroad definitions of “terrorist act” and “terrorist organisation” contained in Israel’s 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law and the 1945 Emergency Regulations, which afford the Israeli government and the Military Commander wide discretion to levy their application in a discriminatory manner, contrary to international standards of proportionality and legality. Furthermore, the submission notes the limited recourse to appeal with a lack of due process pursuant to either legislative framework, as well as the consistent disregard of the Israeli military court apparatus to principles of international law and human rights standards, notably Articles 78 and 72 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulating the right of a defendant to defend him/herself, as well as Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the basic standards of fair trial. Moreover, the submission underlines the 2018 amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Law, which allows for retrospective application and designates specific punitive measures for those convicted of a “terror act”, rendering them ineligible for early release or sentence reduction. This creates a two-tier system of imprisonment, with Palestinians being subject to more punitive sentencing conditions, violating international fair trial standards.
Moreover, the submission highlights Israel’s suppression of Palestinian civic space, the alarming ramifications of Israel’s outlawing of seven Palestinian civil society organisations, including Health Work Committees (HWC) and UPWC, and the arbitrary detention and harsh detention conditions for Shatha Odeh, then Director of HWC and acting Chairwoman of PNGO, and Khitam Sa’afin, who was then serving as the President of UPWC – both of whom have been arbitrarily detained pursuant to “counter-terrorism” measures, citing alleged membership in “unlawful organisations,” for their crucial work in association with Palestinian civil society organisations.
Moreover, the submission sheds light on the arrest and detention of Ahmed Manasra, which exemplifies Israel’s reliance on the Counter-Terrorism Law to subject Palestinians to punitive measures and violate international fair trial standards, and how the aforementioned Law contributes to a detention system that violates Palestinian human rights within the context of a settler-colonial apartheid regime. Ahmad – who was arrested at the age of 13 and sentenced to 12 years in prison despite acknowledgment that he did not participate in the alleged attempted attack –, developed severe mental health problems while imprisoned. His application for early release and release on medical grounds were denied, and he was placed in solitary confinement, which has been deemed torture by UN experts. The retrospective application of the CT Law was used to deny his release and constitutes a violation of his human rights as a child.
Overall, the organisations urged the Special Rapporteur to:
- Recognise and acknowledge that the root causes of Israel’s systematic violations and crimes against the Palestinian people as a whole are Zionist settler-colonialism and the ensuing apartheid regime;
- Call on Israel to repeal its Counter-Terrorism Law, effectively used to institutionalise the persecution of human rights defenders and entrench its colonial domination over the Palestinian people and their lands and further denounce the application of the Counter-Terrorism Law to Palestinian civil society organisations as an overreaching of Israel’s domestic law to the occupied Palestinian territory; and
- Call on Israel to immediately cease its systematic and ongoing policies and practices aimed at intimidating, smearing, and silencing Palestinian civil society organisations and human rights defenders – and thereby, ultimately maintain its settler-colonial apartheid regime – including through arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment, institutionalised hate speech and incitement, residency revocation, deportations, and other forms of coercive or punitive measures, including recent designations.
Read the full submission here.