GENEVA, Thursday, June 16, 2022 (WAFA) – UN human rights experts today denounced Israel for abusing counter-terrorism laws to target and silence human rights defenders, after an Israeli court accused Palestinian aid worker Mohammed el-Halabi of "financing terrorism".
Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestine, and Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights, said, “The conviction of the former program director of World Vision’s Gaza office was a clear violation of Israel’s obligation to respect the right to a fair trial and due process, as well as its obligation as an Occupying Power under international humanitarian law.”
“Mr. el-Halabi’s trial demonstrated a serious disregard for fair trial guarantees, including the extensive use of secret evidence against him, restricted communication with his lawyer, inadequate time and obstacles posed for the preparation of his defense and the failure to try him without undue delay,” they said.
“Convicting a humanitarian aid worker in serious violation of the right to a fair trial and on baseless charges of ‘terrorism’ is further evidence of Israel’s egregious misuse of counter-terrorism measures to suppress voices of human rights defenders.”
On 15 June 2022, Israel’s Beersheba District Court convicted Mr. el-Halabi on 13 alleged charges of terrorism, including membership of a terror organization and diverting humanitarian funds to finance terror activities.
“During his detention, he was reportedly subject to ill-treatment, solitary confinement, duress and coercion to provide a confession, all of which may amount to torture,” the experts said. “Mr. el-Halabi has consistently maintained his innocence. An independent audit carried out on World Vision found no evidence of diversion of funds,” they said.
According to the experts, Mr. el-Halabi was subject to extreme pressure to confess and accept a plea bargain during his prolonged detention. “A confession extracted from Mr. el-Halabi under the threat of physical violence flagrantly deviates from international human rights standards and should have been inadmissible as evidence,” the UN experts said.
“This practice of arbitrary arrest and detention is part and parcel of the protracted military occupation, which subjugates Palestinians to oppression and strips them of any sense of human rights and dignity,” said the experts.
“These cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinians in Israel, including that of Mr. el-Halabi, warrant a prompt, independent, impartial, effective, thorough and transparent investigation,” the UN experts said.
“We call for Mr. el-Halabi’s conviction to be promptly, independently, impartially and thoroughly reviewed on appeal through proceedings that respect and protect his fair trial guarantees. We also call for his immediate release on bail, pending appeal.”