UN: Israel among 'shameful' countries abusing human rights activists

Israel earns a spot for ongoing legal battle against Omar Shakir.

By REUTERS
September 12, 2018 16:54
2 minute read.
Omar Shakir from Human Rights Watch

Omar Shakir from Human Rights Watch. (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)

 
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GENEVA - The United Nations on Wednesday listed Israel among 38 "shameful" countries, which it said had carried out reprisals or intimidation against people cooperating with it on human rights, through killings, torture and arbitrary arrests. Allegations of ill-treatment, surveillance, criminalisation, and public stigmatization campaigns targeting victims and human rights defenders were also included on the list.

Israel earned its spot on the list for it's ongoing legal battle against Human Rights Watch representative Omar Shakir, who's visa wasn't extended and who's deportation was ordered last May on the grounds of supporting the BDS movement. Interior minister Deri who ordered the deportation last May said he acted on the recommendation of the Strategic Affairs who had gathered information showing that Shakir “is an active and consistent supporter of boycotting Israel.” 

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Humans Right Watch challenged the decision and accused Israel of trying to silence criticism on its human right's record and that going after Shakir was an attempt to go after HRW as a whole.

Shakir remains in the country after the Jerusalem District Court backtracked on its original decision to go through with the deportation and the case remains under review.

The UN report did not highlight how it categorized the case against Shakir and why it would place Israel on the "shameful' list.

"The world owes it to those brave people standing up for human rights, who have responded to requests to provide information to and engage with the United Nations, to ensure their right to participate is respected," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in the annual report.

"Punishing individuals for cooperating with the United Nations is a shameful practice that everyone must do more to stamp out."

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The 38 countries included 29 countries with new cases, Israel among them, and 19 with ongoing or continuing cases.

The new cases were in Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba,  Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela.

Governments frequently charged human rights activists with terrorism or blamed them for cooperating with foreign entities or damaging the state's reputation or security, it said.

“(There is a) disturbing trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by states as justification
for blocking access by communities and civil society organizations to the United Nations," the report said.

Women cooperating with the U.N. had reported threats of rape and being subject to online smear campaigns, and U.N. staff often encountered people who were too afraid to speak to them, even at U.N. headquarters in New York and Geneva.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, who will present the report to the Human Rights Council next week, said in a statement that the cases in the report were the tip of the iceberg.

"We are also increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles used to intimidate – and silence - civil society,” he said.

Some of the countries listed are current members of the Human Rights Council, which adopted a resolution last year reaffirming that
everyone - individually or in association with others - had a right to unhindered communication with the U.N.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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