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From the field

UN Special Rapporteurs to Netanyahu: End harassment of B’Tselem employees

Six UN Special Rapporteurs have sent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a letter concerning threats and harassment aimed at members of B’Tselem. The letter describes the arrest and ill-treatment of Manal al-Ja’bri, a field researcher for B’Tselem in Hebron, on 22 April 2018, and various threats levelled at Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s director, after he spoke before the UN Security Council in 2016 and 2018. The signatories include the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. The letter was sent on December 20, 2018. As no official Israeli response was received within 60 days, it is now being published, in keeping with UN protocol.

The Special Rapporteurs wrote: “[W]e wish to express serious concern at the denunciatory statements by high-level public officials against Mr. El-Ad following his statement delivered at the UN Security Council. We regret that the labelling of Mr. El-Ad as ‘traitor’ and ‘collaborator’ may serve to stigmatize his work… and creat[e] an atmosphere of harassment that could lead to physical violence. We also express serious concern at the harassment of Ms. Al-Ja’bri, including gender-based violence, undignified treatment by asking her to undress in public and in front of male guards and threatening with judicial action, which appear to be related to her work with B’Tselem and her peaceful attempts to document and expose human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” On 22 April 2018, Manal al-J’abri was interrogated on false charges of assaulting a Border Police officer and photographing a checkpoint. She was briefly detained and physically assaulted by Border Police officers, who also threatened her, near al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hebron. The police officers ordered al-J’abri to undress on the street, in full view of passersby, but she refused to comply.

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad addressed the UN Security Council in October 2016 and October 2018, laying out the reality of the occupation and calling for firm international action to end it. Subsequently, senior Israeli officials publicly suggested that his citizenship be revoked and that B’Tselem outlawed.