Israeli law proposal: Outlaw organisations reporting on violations

By JNews, London, UK – 29 April 2010

Source:  Knesset minutes, nrg, Maariv, Israeli human rights groups, MK Avi Dichter, Kadima

Foreboding in the Israeli human rights community as a new proposed law targets organizations reporting on breaches of international law

A new law tabled on Wednesday in the Israeli Knesset, seeks to forbid registration of Israeli organizations (NGOs) that are suspected of provision of information or involvement in law suits against Israeli officials or commanders for breaches of International Humanitarian Law, or war crimes.

It would also require the Registrar of Association to close down existing organizations engaged in such activities.

The proposed Associations Law (Amendment – Exceptions to the Registration and Activity of an Association), 2010, comes in the wake of an incitement campaign against the human-rights community in Israel and is the second law to be proposed against their activities this year.

Among the signatories to the proposed bill are two former members of Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet or shabac: former director Avi Dichter and former deputy director Gideon Ezra.

The law proposal does not cite names of specific organizations, but the initiators of the bill, 19 Knesset members (MKs) from various parties of both the coalition and the opposition, cited Israeli groups Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Coalition of Women for Peace as examples, in the course of a debate held on the bill Wednesday.

Israeli daily Maariv focused specifically on Adalah, a human-rights organization led by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Its news item on the law proposal was headed “MKs propose: Outlaw Adalah.”

In a heated discussion in the Knesset yesterday, MK Nitsan Horovitz of the left-leaning Meretz party described the law proposal as a witchhunt.

“So long as activities are legal under Israeli law, they are [allowed] under freedom of expression, and the conflict is a political one,” said Horovitz. “Is anything illegal being done by an organization? – then go to the police,” he said.

He added that the Knesset should address the allegations made by the organizations under attack, instead of silencing them.

A group of ten Israeli human rights organizations has published a response to the bill, saying that it “violates international treaties and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was signed in the wake of the horrors of World War II,” and that it “seeks to conceal information or suspicions of a crime.”

The group added that “The Israeli government’s refusal to allow the domestic legal system to investigate allegations of war crimes is the very reason that war crimes may be investigated and prosecuted abroad,” and that “instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it to ashes.”

Adalah’s Director Hassan Jabareen, added that “if the legislation is enacted, it would constitute an official admission by the State of Israel that it is committing war crimes, and is ordering human-rights organizations in Israel to keep silent about them, to refrain from passing on information about them, and to cease assisting both the victims and the international community in working to prevent their continuation. Only a state that commits prohibited acts would be interested in such legislation.”

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