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UN denounces Israeli harassment of human rights defenders in Masafer Yatta

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Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: August 2, 2022

UN experts have denounced Israel’s harassment of human rights defenders and humanitarian workers in the occupied West Bank hamlets of Masafer Yatta, as its communities continue to be threatened by risks of forcible transfer, including mass forced evictions and arbitrary displacement.

Forced displacement of dozens of families:

In a statement published by the Media Center of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the experts said: “Legitimised by the High Court decision, which abysmally found no reason to stop the implementation of illegitimate eviction orders, Israeli authorities have already demolished numerous Palestinian homes and structures, forcibly evicting and arbitrarily displacing residents from their homes in Masafer Yatta.”
Earlier in May 2022, the experts condemned the Israeli High Court of Justice’s rejection of the appeals against the eviction orders issued to the Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta, which is classified as a military training site. Since then, Israel authorities have issued more demolition orders and established military checkpoints.

Harassment and military trials of human rights defenders:

The experts also expressed their concerns regarding reports that human rights defenders and humanitarian workers were harassed by the Israeli military in Masafer Yatta, and that they were arrested and detained for several hours at checkpoints and their identity documents or vehicles confiscated, often on grounds that they had entered a closed military site without permission.

“Israeli authorities’ hubris is proving without limits. They are even harassing human rights defenders and humanitarian workers seeking to support and protect people facing grave human rights violations in Masafer Yatta,” the experts said.

“This is a direct assault on the core of human rights and international humanitarian law, and a serious violation of the right of human rights defenders to engage in their work. This also confirms that impunity over abuse of power fosters power to abuse,” the experts added.

A case against the activist Sami Hureini:

The experts also expressed particular concern about the arrest of Sami Hureini, a prominent human rights defender and member of “Youth of Al-Sumoud”, an activist group engaged in the peaceful resistance against illegal settlements in the southern Hebron Hills.

On June 28, 2022, the Israeli authorities arrested Hureini at a checkpoint in Masafer Yatta, and detained him for several hours.

He is currently being tried in the Ofer Military Court for allegedly obstructing and assaulting a soldier and entering a closed military zone, following his participation in a peaceful demonstration on 8 January 2021.

Reportedly, no physical evidence substantiating the allegations against Sami Hureini has been presented to Court.
The experts commented that Hureini’s ongoing trial clearly shows an increasing trend of Israeli criminalization and harassment of human rights defenders, aimed at silencing them and rooting out human rights work in the region.

They noted that the main reason for the charges appeared to be that Sami Hureini was being considered the “main inciter” of the peaceful demonstration in 2021.

“We deplore the fact that the trial of Mr. Hureini is held by the military justice system, which falls short of fair trial standards required by international law.

The systematic application of military jurisdiction to Palestinians is also blatantly discriminatory, when Jewish settlers in the West Bank are subject to civil jurisdiction,” the experts said.

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