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From the field

B'Tselem Protests PA Cabinet Decision

B'Tselem Protests PA Cabinet Decision to Restrict Activity of Human Rights Organizations and other Non-Governmental Organizations

Eitan Felner, Executive Director of B'Tselem, today wrote to the head of the Palestinian Authority, Yassir Arafat, requesting that Arafat act to protect human rights in the PA and ensure the freedom of operation of Palestinian human rights organizations. The body of the letter follows:

"I read with great concern reports in the media that the PA cabinet has decided to create a committee to 'study the current situation of Palestinian non-governmental organizations and the law regulating their operation.' The report in Ha'aretz also quoted PA Justice Minister Abu Meddein's claim that organizations dealing with human rights issues are 'doing political work that does not serve the Palestinian people.'

"As you well know, a major task of government is to provide for the good and welfare of the people. History has clearly proven that respect for human rights is an integral part of a healthy, contented society; conversely, where human rights are not protected, the people suffer, the public welfare decreases, and discontent inevitably follows.

"The PA expressed a commitment to human rights when it established the Human Rights Commission, and you have spoken out in the past on your commitment and the commitment of the PA to comply with international human rights norms. By taking measures that will restrict or have a chilling effect on activities of human rights organizations, the PA will be taking a step backwards in its goal to develop a free, democratic, and law-abiding governmental entity.

"I urge you to reconsider the decision reached by the cabinet and to do everything within your power to ensure that the PA government, the Palestinian Legislative Council, and every instrument of government within the PA act to protect human rights and assist any individual or organization working toward that end."