A high-ranking UN official has called on “Israeli authorities” to release a number of Palestinian human rights defenders “immediately”.
Mary Lawlor, the United Nation’s (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, has delivered a blistering piece of criticism against Israel.
In reaction to a huge rise in arrests of Palestinian activists following the occupying state’s aggressions against East Jerusalem (or al-Quds, as it is known in Arabic), Gaza, and Palestinians living in Israel earlier this year, Lawlor has said that: “Arrests and raids on the homes of Palestinian human right defenders form part of a wider crackdown against those defending the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Her statements were published on the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights’s (UNHCHR) website.
Lawlor’s position focused on several activists in particular, all of whom have been or are still detained in Israeli prisons.
The first is Farid Al-Atrash, a human rights defender and lawyer at the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). Al-Atrash was detained by Israeli military forces after he peacefully participated in a demonstration in Bethlehem on 15 June. He was released on bail eight days later.
Those residents mentioned by Lawlor include Muna Al-Kurd, Mohammed Al-Kurd, and Zuhair Al Rajabi, all “human rights defenders at the forefront of protecting their communities against forced displacement”. All three “have been arrested and interrogated” over the last period, Lawlor noted.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur also mentioned several employees of the Health Work Committee (HWC), which “provides health services to Palestinians living in remote areas of the West Bank.”
The HWC’s director, Shatha Odeh, and its former project coordinator, Juana Ruiz Sánchez, are being held in Damoun Prison. The HWC’s accountant, Tayseer Abu Sharbak, is in Ofer prison.
They are being tried on charges of participating in “an illegal organisation”. Odeh’s health is deteriorating, whilst Sánchez is being held in solitary confinement.
“I call on the authorities to stop targeting these human rights defenders and allow them to carry out their legitimate and peaceful work free from any kind of restrictions”, Lawlor has said.
Lawlor’s call was endorsed by numerous serving UN officials.