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Palestinian NGO Al-Haq says staff has received "death threats"

March 5, 2016 9:30 P.M. (Updated: March 5, 2016 9:30 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq has been the target of a smear campaign in the past six months culminating in death threats, the group said in a statement released this week.

Al-Haq is an independent rights organization based in Ramallah which has documented violations of individual and collective human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1979.

Although the organization said it “has faced various forms of attack and smear campaigns by the Israeli authorities” since its inception, it reported in a statement on Wednesday that it has faced a growing number of anonymous threats and attempts to tarnish its reputation since September.

A number of anonymous messages were sent to Al-Haq donors and staff casting accusations of corruption and fraud. The accusations were discredited in November, after Al-Haq requested audits of its own accounting to dispel suspicions of wrongdoing.

The intimidation tactics reportedly escalated in late February, when Al-Haq said two of its staff members, including its director Shawan Jabarin, received anonymous calls which “directly connect[ed] the risk to the life of the staff member with Al-Haq’s work regarding the International Criminal Court.”

Al-Haq said the threats coincided with its involvement with “the progress achieved at the level of the International Criminal Court and decisions at the EU level regarding the labeling of settlement products.”

The NGO said it had notified the “appropriate authorities” and that an investigation had been opened, adding that it was “convinced” that Israeli authorities were behind the smear campaign.

“This is an institutionalized, planned and very well-resourced campaign -- with IT skills beyond any expert capacity,” the statement read. “There have been direct attacks on Al-Haq from the Israeli Minister of Justice, Israeli newspapers and Israeli organisations and institutions both at the local level and abroad.”

However, the Palestinian organization vowed to “remain steadfast in the face of these attacks and not be distracted or deterred from continuing its work in the pursuit of justice.”

Israeli authorities have imposed a travel ban on Jabarin, Al-Haq’s director, since 2006, lifting it temporarily on two occasions, citing undisclosed evidence that Jabarin represented a security threat.

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