Poland and Israel: human rights defenders not welcome

May 9, 2018

For those who think that muzzling human rights defenders is an exclusively non-western affair, look at these examples: Poland and Israel.

On 9 May 2018 Katharina Rall, environment researcher at Human Rights Watch, critically looks at Poland‘s efforts to hamper the freedom of expression and demonstration by human rights defenders at the forthcoming climate summit, known as the COP24. It will bring together state parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and thousands of experts, journalists, businesses and nongovernmental groups.  UN experts cite concerns about the ban on spontaneous assemblies in Katowice during the talks, which will make it difficult for groups to respond to developments at the negotiations. In a letter sent to the Polish government last month they said that by “curtail[ing] the possibility of spontaneously expressing views about the unfolding of the climate talks and organizing peaceful assemblies to this effect”, the new law appears to go beyond the rights restrictions necessary to ensure security and safety at the conference. The UN experts also noted that the law “appears to give sweeping surveillance powers to the police and secret services to collect and process personal data about all COP24 participants”. This is a serious issue for the safety of climate activists at the summit. [The Polish government has yet to respond to the UN rights experts. But a reply from the Polish environment minister to similar concerns raised by the Bureau of the Aarhus Convention, a regional human rights and environmental body, has done little to dispel them.]

Just the day before, 8 May 2018, AP reported that Israel’s Interior Minister, Arieh Deri, has ordered the head of the local office of Human Rights Watch to leave the country within 14 days for allegedly supporting boycotts of Israel. HRW responded that it stands by Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen of Iraqi descent, and accused Israel of trying to muzzle criticism of its human rights record. It says neither it nor Shakir support boycotts, and that it will challenge the decision in court. Iain Levine, a Human Rights Watch official, says Israel’s actions, such as compiling a dossier on Shakir, and “deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.” [In April last year his appointment had already let to controversy, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/]

http://news.trust.org//item/20180509072953-izwk3/

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/israel-expel-human-rights-watch-rep-boycott-claims-55019948

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