The Palestinian government has blocked the registration of Lawyers for Justice, a legal advocacy group representing critics and opponents detained in Palestinian prisons. The move is viewed as an attempt to stifle civil society in the occupied West Bank, and without proper registration, Lawyers for Justice could lose access to its funds and be forced to close.
According to the director of Lawyers for Justice, Mohannad Karaje, the organization was told it had violated the law by engaging in non-profit work and accepting foreign aid despite being registered as a “civil corporation.” Palestinian security forces refused to renew the registration, even though Lawyers for Justice has operated as a civil corporation without issue for years.
Human Rights Watch described the Palestinian government’s bureaucratic explanation as a thinly veiled attack on a group that has represented torture victims and helped document the self-rule government’s arbitrary arrests of critics to crush dissent. The watchdog organization said that the Palestinian government’s move is a dangerous step and an attempt to control civil society and human rights groups trying to work in Palestine.
Karaje denounced the move as a sign of the authority’s increasingly autocratic rule and a warning for groups fighting abuses in the West Bank. He said Lawyers for Justice would appeal the decision. With peace talks frozen for over a decade, experts say that the Palestinian Authority, which was set up nearly three decades ago as an interim administration to lead the Palestinians toward statehood, faces a crisis of legitimacy. Many Palestinians deride the authority, headed by 88-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, as a vehicle for collaboration with Israel.
Last month, prominent Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki found that for the first time, a majority – 52% of Palestinians – believe that the collapse of the authority is in their best interest. This move by the Palestinian government is expected to add fuel to the fire and further undermine the already fragile legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. The decision has sparked concerns among rights groups that the government is trying to silence critics and restrict the freedom of expression in the region.
The Palestinian government’s decision has been widely condemned, with many human rights groups calling for the immediate reinstatement of Lawyers for Justice’s registration. The move is also expected to raise questions about the Palestinian government’s commitment to protecting human rights and promoting civil society in the region.
In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the Palestinian government’s treatment of human rights activists and political dissidents. The move to block the registration of Lawyers for Justice is seen as a further attempt to silence those who speak out against the government’s policies and practices.
The move by the Palestinian government to block the registration of Lawyers for Justice is expected to have serious implications for civil society in the occupied West Bank. It remains to be seen how the government will respond to the growing criticism and calls for the reinstatement of Lawyers for Justice’s registration.