The Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq continues to be the target of a sophisticated smear campaign, aimed at both its staff and the organisation as a whole. Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, has become the victim of slander due to the distribution of untrue publications about him. In addition, one of Al-Haq’s human rights lawyers, Nada Kiswanson, who has represented the organisation in Europe and at the International Criminal Court, has been threatened with violence and received death threats.
The situation worsened in September 2015 when several of Al-Haq’s European donors received fake letters, supposedly from the Palestinian Autority (PA). The letters stated that Al-Haq was under investigation by Ernst & Young and accused of fraud and corruption. The PA and Ernst & Young later confirmed that the letters had not been sent by them. Donors and financial institutions also received fraudulent letters attempting to block financing and payments to Al-Haq. In addition, the organisation continues to deal with cyberattacks and Israeli government officials who make allegations in their statements and at diplomatic meetings intended to bring the organisation into disrepute.
It’s no coincidence that the rise in attacks on Al-Haq coincides with the progress that the organisation is making in submission of dossiers to the International Criminal Court – as well as the EU’s decision on labelling products from settlements. The Israeli Minister of Justice and various Israeli newspapers, organisations and institutions have made fierce efforts to discredit the human rights organisation, from abroad as well. Al-Haq has been portrayed as a terrorist organisation or as a ‘supporter of terrorism’ and ‘instigator of violence’, and director Jabarin is said to be promoting a ‘propaganda campaign against Israel’. In September 2017, Al-Haq, along with three other Palestinian human rights organisations, again submitted evidence to Fatou Bensouda – prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (see image below). This evidence concerned war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli soldiers and their commanders in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Al-Haq is not able to carry out its work in freedom. But despite all the threats and opposition, they persevere. As director Shawan Jabarin says:
‘We will not be deterred from our pursuit for justice’.
Al Haq also has the support of the ‘Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders’, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture. Together they work to protect human rights defenders and to offer them concrete help in cases of need. They have made this urgent appeal:
‘The Observatory urges all competent authorities in Israel to investigate the situation and to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in order to create an environment where human rights defenders can operate freely. The authorities in Israel should in particular refrain from making any depreciating comments on human rights defenders and publicly support the important role played by human rights defenders, including those critical of the country’s human rights record.’
Read more about this appeal and the smear campaign against Al Haq.