Israel/Palestine: Palestinian Rights Defenders Threatened

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(Jerusalem) – New anonymous death threats have been made against staff members of a Palestinian human rights organization advocating an investigation by the International Criminal Court into alleged war crimes in Palestine.

The Gaza-based Al-Mezan issued a statement on August 11, 2016, that a staff member working in Europe reported receiving three anonymous email threats. The last email, sent on August 10, whose contents were shared with Human Rights Watch, was accompanied by photographs of the exterior of his home and read in part, “you deserve to see your loved ones suffer and die. But maybe you would be hurt before them.”

Since last year, unknown people have sent threats to staff members of Al-Mezan and the Ramallah-based Al Haq and spread false information to their donors, including in forged communications purporting to come from staff members, officials, and auditors. For security reasons, Human Rights Watch is not disclosing the location of the Al-Mezan employee.

“The threats against Al-Mezan and Al Haq staff members are reprehensible,” said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “These groups are making important contributions to justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court.”

This latest incident follows a series of threats made against Al Haq, especially a staff member based in the Netherlands who is advocating accountability before the ICC for alleged war crimes committed in Palestine. Al Haq stated in March that the threats followed a pattern similar to those against Al-Mezan.

Unknown people wrote and telephoned donors to Al Haq, alleging financial irregularities and threatening to harm the staff member and Al Haq’s executive director, who is based in the occupied West Bank. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch conveyed its concern to the Dutch authorities about the safety of the Al-Haq staff member and all human rights defenders advocating accountability through the ICC.

Both Al Haq and Al-Mezan said that the threats and the contacts with donors increased as they intensified their advocacy before the ICC and, in the case of Al Haq, initiatives to require labeling products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank to distinguish them from products from Israel.

Police in at least three European countries are investigating, the groups said.

In June, Human Rights Watch urged the ICC prosecutor to open a formal investigation into serious international crimes committed in Palestine by Israelis and Palestinians since June 2014.

“It is crucial that the work of human rights activists speaking out for justice can go forward unhindered in Europe and beyond,” Bashi said.