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(1) Humanitarian Work In Occupied Palestinian Territory (EN/AR) / (2) Kyrgyzstan Law Risks Undermining Work Of NGOs

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Jeremy Laurence

Location: Geneva

Date: 5 April 2024


(1) Occupied Palestinian Territory/Israel: Vital need to ensure humanitarian aid and protect humanitarian workers

(2) Kyrgyzstan’s new “foreign representatives” law risks undermining work of NGOs

Occupied Palestinian Territory/Israel: Vital need to ensure humanitarian aid and protect humanitarian workers

As we approach six months of hostilities, it is with deep sadness and outrage that we reflect on the devastation and death toll in Israel and Gaza. Over 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, are dead, 75,000 or more are injured, and at least 7,000 are presumed dead under the rubble. Over 1,200 are dead in Israel and hundreds injured. More than 100 hostages remain in captivity. Huge swathes of Gaza have been bombed into oblivion. The Gaza Strip has changed forever.

The violations of international law committed since 7 October in Israel and Gaza, including gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, as well as the destruction and suffering of civilians in Gaza over the last six months, are unprecedented. And the risk of further atrocity crimes is high.

The world has collectively spoken that this carnage and wanton destruction must end immediately. The hostages must be released unconditionally. Humanitarian aid and other goods necessary for the survival of the civilian population must be allowed to flood into Gaza and be safely distributed to every part of the Strip.

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Also, the High Commissioner stresses again that there must be accountability for the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that have been perpetrated, as well as a renewed resolve to reach a political solution to ensure Palestinians’ rights to self-determination, equality and non-discrimination, and which guarantees that Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace. The occupation must end. This should not just be rhetoric, but action is needed now.

This week, the world was shocked by Israel’s killing of seven people working for World Central Kitchen. So far, nearly 200 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza, including close to 180 UN staff.

The Israeli airstrikes that killed World Central Kitchen personnel underline the horrific conditions under which humanitarian workers are operating in Gaza. Israel has also killed law enforcement officials and others involved in securing humanitarian aid delivery, directly contributing to the breakdown of civil order and putting humanitarian workers and those in need of aid in further danger.

Following these latest attacks, NGOs, including the World Central Kitchen and Anera, have suspended aid delivery and distribution to Palestinians in Gaza, increasing the already real risk of more deaths from famine and disease at larger scale.

International law requires all parties to respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel and ensure their safety, security, and freedom of movement. Israel, as the occupying power, has the additional obligation to ensure, to the fullest extent possible, that the basic needs of the population of Gaza are met. This means that it must ensure the provision of food and medical care to the population commensurate with its needs, and if it is unable to do so, it must facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations to deliver that assistance and the access of the population to it in a safe and dignified manner.

Attacking people or objects involved in humanitarian assistance may amount to a war crime. As the High Commissioner has repeatedly stated, impunity must end. Independent, thorough and effective investigations into all alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed on 7 October and subsequently need to be conducted promptly. The High Commissioner reiterates his call on all duty bearers to ensure cooperation with international mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court. All victims and their families should be granted full reparation.

Kyrgyzstan’s new “foreign representatives” law risks undermining work of NGos

We have serious concerns that a new law due to come into force in Kyrgyzstan in just over a week’s time will pose a serious threat to the work of numerous civil society organisations in the country, and, more broadly, violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and the right to take part in public affairs.

Earlier this week, President Sadyr Japarov signed into law the “foreign representatives” bill. This grants the authorities extensive oversight of non-commercial organisations and stipulates that NGOs engaging in what are broadly termed “political activities” and receiving foreign funding must register as “foreign representatives”. Failure to do so could result in their operations being suspended for up to six months, and possibly forced liquidation.

The majority of NGOs actively operating in Kyrgyzstan receive grants, including from international organisations and foreign donors.

We are concerned that many of the affected NGOs could feel compelled to close to avoid being stigmatised as “foreign representatives”, exposed to arbitrary checks by the authorities, and having to pay for annual audits.

Those that choose to be registered as “foreign representatives” could end up having to self-censor. This, in turn, would lead to legitimate public advocacy, human rights monitoring and reporting, and discussion of matters of public interest being seriously stifled.

We call on the authorities to repeal the new law and ensure all future legislation fully respects international human rights law and standards.

We also urge the authorities to engage in meaningful consultations with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations and human rights defenders in this regard.

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