June 2017 will mark 50 years of Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories. Under the military occupation, Palestinians are living without civil rights while severe human rights violations are accruing daily. In this reality, the existence of HRDs which lead and support non-violent straggle, is critically important.
There is no proper public debate about the status of human rights defenders in Israel, and about the rights and government obligations associated with this status. Law enforcement agencies, primarily the police, attach no importance to the array of internationally-recognized rights of human rights defenders that are specifically intended to allow them to carry out their activities. Instead, it often seems that police and military forces on the ground, as well as the prosecution services, consider criminal law a legitimate tool for constraining human rights defenders and limiting their legitimate actions. In many cases, courts too choose to ignore the principles of freedom of expression and the role of activists as Human Rights Defenders.
Moreover, Palestinians HRDs are subject to Israel's military courts, whose proceedings are incompatible with international law standards and fall far short of providing a fair trial, and which have a conviction rate of more than 99%.
By providing rapid, effective and professional legal support to HRDs in Israel and the OPT who are systematically targeted by Israeli authorities for their participation in non-violent resistance activities, we mitigate the “chilling effect” of the authorities’ actions.