Ramallah, August 13, 2021—UN human rights experts released a statement today calling on Israeli authorities to immediately return materials seized by Israeli forces in a raid on Defense for Children International - Palestine’s headquarters last month.
In the August 13 statement, UN human rights experts Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, declared they are "deeply concerned by the Israeli military’s interference with the human rights work of a well-known and well-regarded NGO" and called on Israeli authorities to immediately return property seized by Israeli forces.
“As Israeli authorities pursue an intimidation campaign to silence and eliminate Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations like DCIP, we are encouraged by the overwhelming support and recognition we have received from the international community,” said Khaled Quzmar, general director at DCIP. “Israeli efforts to delegitimize and criminalize Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations violate basic tenets of international human rights law.”
Israeli paramilitary border police forces raided DCIP’s headquarters located in Al-Bireh’s Sateh Marhaba neighborhood, located just south of Ramallah, around 5:15 a.m. on July 29. More than a dozen Israeli soldiers forced open the office’s locked front door and confiscated computers, hard drives, and client files.
Video surveillance footage from inside the DCIP office shows Israeli forces entering the premises at 5:15 a.m. The Israeli soldiers move through the DCIP office gathering computers, laptops, and files, and then cut the closed-circuit television camera feed at 5:27 a.m.
On August 9, Israel's Ofer military court issued a decision on DCIP’s complaint filed on July 29 to recover all property confiscated by Israeli forces in the raid. The military court has until August 16 to assess the return of property, after which DCIP can request a hearing.
The UN experts noted “[t]he indispensable work of Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society organizations has provided a measure of much-needed accountability in documenting and scrutinizing the dispiriting human rights trends in the occupied Palestinian territory” and acknowledged that “DCIP has critically and reliably reported on the patterns of arrests, maiming and killings of Palestinian children by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”
“The silencing or hindering of these activities violates the fundamental human rights of expression and association, which Israel has committed itself to uphold through its ratification of the two 1966 International Covenants,” the experts said.
The experts noted that over 70 Palestinian children have been killed in 2021 and reaffirmed that “All civilian lives under occupation are protected under international law. This is particularly true for the rights of children.”
This year, Israeli forces have shot and killed 11 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Most recently, on July 28, 2021, Israeli forces shot and killed 11-year-old Mohammad Mo’ayyad Bahjat Abu Sara in the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ummar.
During the Israeli military’s assault on the Gaza Strip in May, DCIP documented the killings of 67 Palestinian children, 60 of whom died from attacks by Israeli forces.
The experts called on Israeli authorities “to work with the international community to establish an impartial body to conduct transparent, arm’s length and public investigations into these deaths consistent with the standards on international law, and to apply the lessons gleaned from these investigations to strenuously avoid such a pattern of tragedy in the future.”
Under international law, intentional lethal force is only justified in circumstances where a direct threat to life or of serious injury is present. However, investigations and evidence collected by DCIP regularly suggest that Israeli forces use lethal force against Palestinian children in circumstances that may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killings.
Israeli forces are rarely held accountable for grave violations against Palestinian children, including unlawful killings and excessive use of force. According to Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, around 80 percent of complaints filed with Israeli authorities by Palestinians for alleged violations and harm by Israeli soldiers between 2017 and 2018 were closed with no criminal investigation opened. Of complaints where a criminal investigation was opened, only three incidents (3.2 percent) resulted in indictments. Overall, the chances that a complaint leads to an indictment of an Israeli soldier for violence, including killing, or other harm is 0.7 percent, according to Yesh Din.