Outrage after Israel arrests UN worker in Jerusalem

Outrage after Israel arrests UN worker in Jerusalem
Human rights groups are calling for the immediate release of a United Nations worker arrested by Israel last month.
2 min read
01 February, 2021
Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag [Getty]
Human rights groups are rallying behind a United Nations worker who was arrested by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem last month.

Shireen Al-Araj, a human rights activist, was summoned by Israeli authorities for interrogation on charges of "contacting with foreign clients and persons".

Al-Araj, who holds an Israeli ID in addition to a UN diplomatic passport, had returned to the Palestinian territories after an Israeli ban that lasted for five years.

Al-Araj's lawyer had informed her she needed to return to the occupied territories to renew her residency papers or face becoming a "refugee", which would bar her from entering  Palestine.

According to reports, Al-Araj was arrested on 24 January at the border crossing between Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

It was there she was interrogated and later ordered to attend the magistrate's court in Jerusalem the next day for further questioning.

Israeli intelligence took her to her home, confiscated her computers and mobile phones, and then detained her in Petah Tikva prison in central Israel.

The Israeli authorities prevented Al-Araj from contacting her lawyer or from being present during the interrogation.

Israeli authorities have often been accused of conducting interrogations without legal representation present.

Al-Araj has been working with the UN in several organisations and programmes, including the UNRWA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Office of the High Commissioner in Turkey.

The UN spoke out against the arrest.

"The arrest of UN employee Shirin Al-Araj is a worrying measure that requires serious action by the UN and relevant agencies, especially since the background of the arrest and the charges against her clearly demonstrate the Israeli authorities' violation of international legal rules that provide special protection for the UN's employees and its agencies, which is a clear challenge to the UN agreements in the field of diplomatic and legal immunity for these groups," said legal advisor at Euro-Med Monitor Muhammad Imad.

Arresting Al-Araj also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention without legal basis.

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