Statement by GPRN And BADIL
BADIL and the GPRN condemn UNRWA's arbitrary measures and restriction of the right to trade union work and freedom of expression, and warn against transforming UNRWA from a humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees into a security agency that seeks to strip them of their Palestinian identity.
BADIL and the Global Palestinian Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Network (GPRN) have discovered that UNRWA has secretly subpoenaed 11 Palestinian staff for interrogations based on unsubstantiated and Israeli induced allegations. By taking these illegal and unethical actions UNRWA has essentially become a security/policing agency.
The UN agency has subpoenaed 3 Palestinian staff members for social media posts about persons accused of having unfounded affiliation to Israeli alleged terrorist entities. UNRWA has also secretly subpoenaed 8 Arab Staff Union (ASU) board members under the allegation of undermining UNRWA’s work by calling for and implementing a union strike to meet union demands.
As a UN agency, UNRWA must adhere to UN Security Council Consolidated List and not the allegations or lists of individual states or non-UN entities. For the 3 UNRWA staff members that were subpoenaed, the accusations stem from social media posts that were made about persons allegedly associated with terrorism but only according to Israel and not the UN List. Additionally, these 3 staff members have been suspended from their positions at UNRWA pending the secret investigation. UNRWA’s actions, resulting from Israeli unfounded allegations, that are derived from its conflation of Palestinian resistance as terrorism, are both illegal and unethical. Furthermore, these actions constitute a clear infringement of the neutrality principle, which is manipulated against Palestinian staff and in favor of Israel’s interests/concerns, and the securitization of UNRWA, an UN mandated humanitarian agency.
Concerning the 8 ASU board members, UNRWA allegedly claims that their syndical actions – calling for a strike - undermined UNRWA’s work. In doing so, UNRWA is threatening the ASU and attempting to delegitimize legitimate and legal union actions to demand better working conditions and pay will not be tolerated by the UN agency. These actions are expected of oppressive and dictatorial regimes, not from an UN agency committed to protecting human rights.
BADIL and the GPRN are exploring avenues to take legal action on behalf of both the staff that have been suspended and the ASU board members to pursue litigation against responsible staff, including the Commissioner-General, within the Agency implicit in these illegal and unethical actions.
Further, BADIL and the GPRN call on:
- UNRWA to cease and desist all these clandestine and illegal interrogations, including those based on unfounded Israeli induced allegations, terminate the suspension of UNRWA staff, and meet the demands of the ASU.
- Palestinian political parties to take immediate steps to stop securitization of UNRWA and to support the demands of the ASU and pressure UNRWA to accept their legitimate demands.
- The international community, especially the UN and its member states, to halt the securitization of UNRWA.