UN rights experts slam Israel's Palestinian NGO bans
They said they were worried the new terror designation against at least one of the six groups could be revenge for working with UN bodies.
Benny Gantz, Israel's defence minister, made the decision to designate the Palestinian organisations as "terrorist" entities on Tuesday.
The measure applies to groups including Defence for Children Palestine, detainee rights organisation Addameer and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees.
Their workplaces now risk closure and their employees are at risk of being detained
"This designation is a frontal attack on the Palestinian human rights movement, and on human rights everywhere," the UN experts' statement said. Among them is the special rapporteur for Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk.
"Silencing their voices is not what a democracy adhering to well-accepted human rights and humanitarian standards would do," the statement added.
The experts urged the international community to pressure Israel to undo its move, saying that counter-terrorism laws should not be a means of suppressing freedoms or human rights activism.
"The misuse of counter-terrorism measures in this way by the government of Israel undermines the security of all.
"The freedoms of association and expression must be fully respected in order to enable civil society to perform its indispensable work, and cannot be undermined by the manifestly egregious misuse of counterterrorism and security legislation," the experts added.
They defended the Palestinian groups, saying they "speak the language of universal human rights".
The experts noted that Israeli security forces had often targeted Palestinian and other human rights groups.
Sweden's international development cooperation minister Per Olsson Fridh said on Twitter on Monday that his country had cooperated with some of the groups targeted by Israel, and that past claims that they had misappropriated funds were unproven.
He added that he was "concerned about shrinking space for Palestinian civil society".
🇸🇪 Minister for devco @thinkper: 🇸🇪 did not receive advance info on decision to designate 🇵🇸 NGOs, incl. 🇸🇪 partner orgs, as terrorist orgs. Previous allegations of misuse of 🇸🇪 funds not substantiated. Concerned abt shrinking space for 🇵🇸 civil society. https://t.co/FpYE4ifjHj— Sweden in Jerusalem (@SwedeninJERU) October 25, 2021
In the UK, sixteen NGOs signed a statement condemning Israel's move against the Palestinian groups.
Amnesty International UK, Oxfam GB, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Save the Children UK, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and Interpal were among the signatories
The groups urged the international community to dismiss Israel's terror designation and maintain their backing for the organisations, saying the move "follows years of relentless delegitimization of civil society groups who seek to expose and end human rights violations".
They specifically addressed the British government, asking it to work to "reiterate its public support to Palestinian human rights defenders and humanitarian development organisations."