American Bar Association expresses concern over 'terror' designations by Israel for six Palestinian NGOs
The head of the American Bar Association has penned a publicly shared letter earlier this week to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett voicing concern over the terrorist designations of six Palestinian humanitarian groups without guaranteeing them procedural rights under international law.
"Organisations should not forfeit their rights simply because they are accused of engaging in terrorist activity," wrote Reginald Turner, president of the ABA, the world's largest voluntary association of attorneys and legal professionals.
"Those charged are still entitled to the presumption of innocence. International law accepts that the requirements of a fair trial may be modified in counterterrorism matters and that states may have recourse to special courts, particularly military courts," the letter added.
The Palestinian NGOs for which Israel made the terrorist designations around six months ago are Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
Since then, organisations around the world, including within Israel, have condemned their designations as terrorist organisations, which essentially outlaws them. In their reasoning for the decision, Israel said they believed these NGOs were tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. So far, Israel has not provided solid evidence for this claim.
"Procedural rights guaranteed under international law would suggest that authorities should disclose to those organizations or their counsel the evidence on which the allegations are based to permit them to prepare a proper legal defence," wrote Turner, noting that the ABA takes no position in the matter.
"It's promising that the ABA is taking this up," Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told The New Arab, noting the roles of small organisations in bringing this issue to the public's attention over the last six months.
"Humanitarian organisations should be a red line," Abuznaid added.
Though Abuznaid expressed disappointment that the State Department has largely stayed silent on the issue, he hopes the ABA letter will help build further momentum.
The ABA letter is CC'd to high-level Israeli officials, the US and international officials that engage with Israel, as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken.