At the edge of dawn on April 13, an Israeli army commando broke into the home of Juani Ruiz placeholder image in a neighborhood of Beit Sahur, in the West Bank (Palestinian territory occupied by Israel). Ruiz, 62, was arrested and transferred to a prison, where she was isolated and without her basic personal belongings, such as simple reading glasses, according to her family. A month passed without knowing what she was accused of. She still does not know the evidence that supposedly exists against her and that in theory will be shown to her from this Wednesday, when the trial begins. Israel has locked her up alleging her participation in a plot of illegal financing and embezzlement of funds, destined to finance projects of the Health Work Committees (HWC) of Palestine, the organization for which he works.
Ruiz has spent three decades trying to provide better access to health for the Palestinian population. “We have 12 clinics, including two hospitals. We believe in prevention. The curative part is very difficult, because the Palestinian authority has not been able to promote Health ”, Juana explained to this medium in November 2019, a year and a half before being arrested.RELATED
He came out of love for a gazati and has been in Palestine for 36 years, he has participated in dozens of projects. The HWCs carry out this work as local partners of Spanish NGOs. For 28 years, Ruiz has been responsible for project coordination: when he goes to Spain, he spreads the Palestinian cause and tries to get funding. Many of them have obtained funds from Andalusian and Spanish public institutions.
In parallel to the judicial process, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs identified seven Palestinian entities, which it accused of using money from European cooperation funds to finance the Popular Liberation Front. In a video broadcast on networks, Israel claims that invoices were falsified to inflate the cost of certain projects, diverting the surplus to the Popular Liberation Front, which for Israel is a terrorist organization. The European Union also classifies it that way.
In the sector there is some unease because the work of the NGOs has been questioned, for the moment without evidence, despite the controls that they pass. Industry sources lament the reputational damage and believe that the problem lies in the wide margins with which Israel defines terrorism. “No agency has detected the slightest irregularity in the projects in which Juani has intervened. Another thing is that Israel may consider that the destination of some funds, projects that were intended to protect human rights, is not money properly used. Israel’s problem is that it makes problems for anything that poses a discrepancy, “he says. Begoña Lalana, family spokesperson.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Spain points out: “It is a process that is now beginning. She used cooperation funds to finance the Popular Liberation Front and five charges have been filed against her. ” It is not clear that the court’s accusations are going to be exactly those. Regarding the controls to which these projects are subjected, he points out that they have not spoken with NGOs or regional institutions, but with state authorities. “Of course: as it is illegal in Spain to make transfers of this money, we have sent information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
The Andalusian Agency for International Cooperation and Development has two projects underway in which Juana Ruiz’s organization participates: “Promotion of access to health and the protection of people with different capacities, with special attention to women, in five communities of the governorate of Hebron, West Bank ”, subsidized with 300,000 euros through Movement for Peace, Disarmament and Freedom, and running until November 30; and “Improving the approach to chronic non-communicable diseases in the West Bank, Palestine, through research, application of innovative protocols, capacity building and community prevention”, which will last until April 15, 2022, and that It has a financing of 105,746 euros through the University of Jaén.
In 2011 and 2013, AACID also funded HWC projects for the improvement of living conditions, inclusion and rights of people with disabilities in Hebron. Both are justified and closed.
In response to eldiario.es/Andalucía, the AACID highlights that all subsidies are awarded on a competitive basis. The entities must provide documentation that proves the legality and solvency of the local counterparts and specify the work methodology and mechanisms for monitoring, supervision and control of the development of activities on the ground.
Halfway through the project, they submit an intermediate monitoring report with financial and technical information for review. Upon completion, NGOs must provide three more documents. A technical report to justify that they have met the conditions of the grant, with documentary evidence that verifies the objectives, results and activities carried out. An economic report that includes an external auditor’s report, in which “all the supporting documents for expenses and their coherence with the actions carried out” are reviewed through invoices. And, finally, an external evaluation report, in which they must participate. all entities involved in the intervention, including the target population.
“All this information is analyzed by the AACID,” agency sources emphasize, adding a final check: “All financed projects are subject to inspection and control by the General Audit of the Junta de Andalucía”. Other projects are financed by local entities, for lower amounts. In these cases, audits are not generalized, but they are subject to review by the institutions and the general grant regulations are applied to them.
These safeguards provide guarantees for the use of funds, but have added a significant administrative workload to NGOs. “They are mechanisms that make our work more bureaucratic. It has to be like that, but we are surprised that such serious accusations are made without proving their foundation, “he says. Héctor Rivero, president of the Andalusian Coordinator of ONGD.
“They ask us for many supporting documents: original invoices, receipts, contracts… Sometimes from countries where it is difficult to find. There are also the sources of verification of the results of the project: patients, medical reports, medical supplies … I wish all public expenditures had the same requirements “, adds Salud Díaz, spokesperson for the Andalusian Association for Solidarity and Peace, which participated in projects with HWC in 2007 and 2008.
Has AACID ever received any complaint or request from individuals or Spanish or Israeli authorities regarding the execution of the projects or the use of the funds allocated to them? “No, let it be known to the Department of Humanitarian Action or to the Mediterranean Cooperation Unit of the AACID, since its inception in 2009”, the agency replies. “Until now, no agency has detected the slightest irregularity in the projects in which Juani has intervened. In no case does HWC have any administrative procedure that declares it illegal, at least with its knowledge, ”says Begoña Lalana, spokesperson for the family.
Ruiz is defended in Israel by Gaby Lasky, known for assuming the defense of Ahed Tamimi, the girl who slapped an Israeli soldier. The family denounces that until now they have not had access to the alleged evidence of the crimes that Ruiz would have committed. A month after her arrest, she was informed of the charges: “Formally, there are five crimes, three of them related to illicit association, one charge for the introduction of money illegally in Judea, and another for the violation of the Jordanian Penal Code of 1960 for the use given to the funds ”, Lalana lists.
During the first month of captivity, she was called to various court appearances, in each of which the date of the trial was delayed. Israel applies military law to the population living in occupied territory. In this way, he carries out administrative detentions that last for months without accusation. “He is following the reverse path that a criminal procedure must follow. She is arrested, then charged, and then the trial is held. Does this have any guarantee? ”Asks Lalana.
In any case, Ruiz’s activity has never been secret. “Juani is well known. She came to Spain and traveled the territory looking for financing. They managed to maintain the health system with small projects thanks to that financing,” explains Salud Díaz. “It is a counterpart to the traditional ones,” adds Rivero: “No they are unknown or newcomers. They have been guaranteeing access to health for decades in very difficult conditions. “
When she was interviewed by this medium, Ruiz was in Malaga invited by the Al Quds Association, and she planned to continue her tour of Spain by meeting with other entities with which to develop joint projects. The latest projects were linked to the vaccination of the population of the occupied territories, which has not been vaccinated by Israel.
In that interview, the aid worker explained the importance of the Committees in Palestinian territory. “Our organization is not entirely private, but it is not public free either. The programs are free because they finance us ”. The HWCs were then developing a program of mobile clinics, useful for providing assistance in area C of the occupied territories, which covers 60% of that territory and where there is “systematic discrimination” of Palestinians, according to a report from the service. exterior of the EU unveiled in February 2019.
A week before that interview with eldiario.es/Andalucía, the financial director had been arrested. She framed him in a general case against human rights organizations. “They went to his house, they beat him up in front of his wife and daughters, they took him away and we don’t know where he is. They have a rule: when they administratively detain someone, they are fifteen days in which they cannot approach a single lawyer or anyone “. Later, it happened to her.