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Newsroom Press release

Threats against Palestinian Lawyer Over ICC Work Must End

NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative is urging the authorities in the Netherlands to step up efforts to ensure that human rights advocates working with the International Criminal Court in The Hague are adequately protected from intimidation.

In particular, the Justice Initiative is deeply concerned over a series of threats directed at staff of Al-Haq, the Palestinian human rights group. Since February this year, Al-Haq has reported receiving multiple death threats in The Hague, aimed at both its general director, Shawan Jabarin, and its Hague-based legal representative, Nada Kiswanson.

According to a statement issued by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Ms Kiswanson and her family have received frequent phone calls, emails and other messages  that explicitly and indirectly threaten her life and security. This included a message received earlier this month over an encryption program linked to a prepaid mobile phone number, stating that she was “not safe at all and hopefully this would remain.”

The Observatory also gave details of an incident in which thousands of publicity flyers were distributed in Ms Kiswanson’s home neighborhood, falsely identifying al-Haq as a religious organization that was supposedly soliciting funding via her residential address.

The Dutch authorities have initiated an investigation and protection measures for Ms Kiswanson.

Along with other human rights groups, Al-Haq has urged the ICC to open an investigation of Israel over the conduct of its 2014 army offensive in the Gaza Strip and other violations allegedly committed on the West Bank.

Robert O. Varenik, acting executive director of the Justice Initiative, said:

“It is vital that human rights defenders from all over the world are able to work freely at the world’s criminal court in The Hague. As host of the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands has a special responsibility to maintain their safety, and their freedom from the kind of intimidation that has been regrettably employed to obstruct the court’s work elsewhere in the world.”

The Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC opened a preliminary investigation into the situation in Palestine in January 2015, shortly after Palestine became a member of the court by signing the Rome Statute.

The Open Society Justice Initiative promotes accountability for grave crimes, including through cases at the ICC. Our work includes the trial monitoring website, IJMonitor.org, which follows developments at the ICC and other tribunals.

Al-Haq is one of a number of human rights groups in Israel and Palestine that receive funding from the Open Society Foundations.

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