On 4 October 2021, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) held a joint webinar with Palestinian civil society on Israel’s escalating attacks against Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society in parallel to the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The side event, titled “Restricting Civic Space: Addressing the Israeli Escalation of Attacks against Palestinian Human Rights Defenders,” hosted Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Khaled Quzmar, Director of Defense for Children International – Palestine, and Sahar Francis Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and Haya Omari, Legal Researcher at Al-Haq. The side event was moderated by Elizabeth Rghebi, Levant Researcher at CIHRS.
UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk underscored that “the work of human rights defenders in Palestine and in the rest of the world animates and enlarges the enjoyment of human rights for the rest of us. They are commonly our first voice for human rights and all too often our last line of defense. If their work is in jeopardy anywhere, we are all the more precarious and less secure.” Haya Omari urged the international community to “recognize that Israel is imposing an apartheid regime through its policies and practices” over the Palestinian people as a whole.
The panel highlighted the recent raid on the offices of Defense for Children International Palestine, the military declaration criminalizing the Health Work Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the arrests of staff of the Health Work Committees, including its director Shadha Odeh. Khaled Quzmar, called for accountability to be ensured by the international community as a first step to bringing the occupation to an end and stopping human rights violations. Sahar Francis, called for countries supporting Palestinian rights to urge their parliamentarians and foreign ministries to pressure Israel to cancel the measures taken to make illegal the Health Work Committees and the Union of Agricultural Committees and to immediately release human rights defenders that have been arrested.
As the event concluded, Special Rapporteur Lynk reiterated the need for accountability: “This occupation is not going to die of old age. This occupation will only end through the continued combination of Palestinian popular activism… but most decisively by active intervention by the international community itself.”
You can view the webinar here.
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