Research Details NGO Exploitation of Courts and Funding Behind Cases

JERUSALEM – To mark International Human Rights Day, NGO Monitor today released an updated monograph, NGO Lawfare – Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The publication includes groundbreaking research on the central role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many of which are funded from the European Union, European governments, and major foundations, for the specific purpose of bringing war crimes cases against Israeli officials.

“The Lawfare monograph discloses critical information demonstrating the direct link from foreign governments to NGO exploitation of courts for their own political agendas,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.  “Lawfare is a sophisticated strategy, developed at the 2001 Durban Conference and now implemented in courts throughout Europe and the U.S.  It is the antithesis of human rights, and, as the study outlines, NGOs utilize foreign government funding for this specific purpose.  Due to a lack of oversight and transparency, government officials are largely unaware how their money is spent.”

The study provides details about numerous cases brought against Israeli officials.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), for example, has filed for arrest warrants in multiple countries against Israeli officials, primarily for “war crimes” over the 2002 targeted killing of Hamas terrorist Salah Shehade. In 2005, Oxfam NOVIB channeled PCHR a €298,339.08 grant from the EU under the “Abolition of the Death Penalty Project,” a project aimed at “contribut[ing] to the abolition of the death penalty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, applied by the Palestinian National Authority via judicial death sentences and via extrajudicial executions” by the Israeli military. PCHR used this money for strategy sessions with its attorneys in to bolster its “war crimes” lawsuits in Europe and the US. 

“The lawsuits brought by PCHR are indicative of the cases we examine in the Lawfare monograph,” notes Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor legal advisor and the monograph’s author.  “The funding that led to these lawsuits was given in a non-transparent manner and was implemented with almost no oversight. These cases and demonization efforts are counterproductive to fostering peace and mutual understanding in the region, and do not align with the official policies of the governments that inadvertently fund them.”

Along with detailing specific cases, Lawfare also discusses NGO involvement in the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the expansion of the concept of universal jurisdiction – two developments that have been key to NGO strategy.  The study also traces the strategy’s development from the 2001 Durban conference to European government and EU-funded conferences on prosecuting Israeli “war criminals” and similar lobbying campaigns. [Click here for image of EU-funded conference]

“Our research shows a clearly defined strategy implemented by NGOs and their funders – exploit and misuse human rights rhetoric to demonize Israel,” Herzberg continues.  “The hundreds of NGOs that claim to pursue human rights have been largely silent regarding Gilag Shalit – the Israeli soldier held captive for nearly four and a half years – and Waleed Hasayin, the Palestinian blogger that was arrested, allegedly tortured, and now faces a life sentence in the West Bank on charges of expressing blasphemous opinions on his blog and several Facebook pages. These individuals and their specific circumstances did not fit the political paradigm and were therefore ignored by self-proclaimed ‘human rights’ NGOs.”

In marking International Human Rights Day (December 10) many NGOs and the United Nations are continuing the exploitation of these universal values. This year, the UN will “highlight and promote the achievements of human rights defenders, and it will again emphasize the primary role governments must play in enabling and protecting their role.” Based on previous behavior, this activity is likely to continue the use of double standards reflected in Lawfare, while failing to support Mr. Hasayin or other victims of human rights violations in closed regimes.

Adds Prof. Steinberg, “The exploitation of human rights is a key component of Lawfare.”  International institutions and NGOs must recognize this strategy and understand that it undermines the work of real human rights defenders throughout the world.  When NGOs allocate time and resources to pursuing these cases, they neglect legitimate human rights grievances in societies such as China, Libya, the Congo, and numerous other countries.  International Human Rights Day should turn all of our attention back to individuals in these types of societies that truly warrant our attention and need our help.”

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To read the Lawfare Executive Summary in English, click here. [PDF]
To read the Lawfare Executive Summary in Hebrew, click here. [PDF]
To read the PDF of the full report, click here.
See NGO Monitor's Lawfare Essentials page, with more information and updates  on NGO lawfare.