Palestine: Closure of human rights organisation Rased's Ramallah office

After criticising the integrity of officials working for the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Human Rights Foundation (Rased) and its members experienced growing harassment, which climaxed in the ordered closure of Rased's offices in Ramallah, Palestine, on 12 April 2012. Alkarama strongly condemns this obstruction of the organisation's work as a reprisal for their criticism of government officials.

Rased is a regional human rights NGO working to document and denounce human rights violations, monitoring in particular the situation of Palestinian refugees. The organisation carries out research on topics related to their core work and implements programs aimed at informing its target group of their rights and fundamental freedoms as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 2006, they established their main office in Lebanon but also set up a branch of the organisation in Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestine. The same year, the organisation filed a request for registration of their Palestine office. This request was accepted by the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in the beginning of 2009 and the Ramallah office was officially registered.

Earlier this year, Rased criticised an employee of the Palestinian Embassy in Lebanon, Mr Ashraf Dabour, for his alleged involvement in corruption in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Thereafter, the organisation and in particular its President started receiving threats and became the object of a campaign of defamation. The initial discord between Rased and the Palestinian diplomat escalated and both sides filed complaints against one another in Lebanon in February 2012.

On 12 April 2012, Rased was informed of a decision signed by the Palestinian Minister of Interior, Dr Said Abu Ali, to close the organisation's offices in Ramallah. The decision was enforced immediately without the possibility of appealing the decision in any way, contrary to Palestinian law.

When examining the content of the decision of the Minister of Interior, it appears that the decision was based on several minor administrative points. But most importantly, the Minister states that Rased's work undermines the prestige of certain State institutions and that the closure of its Ramallah offices was requested by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The decision to close Rased''s offices in Ramallah is therefore clearly related to its public criticism of cases of corruption, menace and defamation by Palestinian officials.

Alkarama strongly condemns the harassment of Rased and its staff members, including the closure of the organisation's offices in Ramallah, which is significantly hampering Rased''s possibility to operate in the West Bank. Being an evident measure of reprisal used against the organisation following their criticism of Palestinian State officials, we call on the Palestinian authorities to immediately stop any form of harassment and intimidation directed against Rased and its members and to ensure they can carry out their work. This includes allowing Rased to re-open the Ramallah office as well as dropping the lawsuit in Lebanon. Alkarama submitted Rased's situation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders as well as other relevant UN human rights mechanisms and will continue to follow the development of the situation closely.
 
For more information or an interview, please contact media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1008).

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