At 9:00 am on Thursday 3 July 2008, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hear a new petition brought by the General Director of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin. Today, Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations issue a joint call for diplomatic representatives, the local and international media, fellow human rights defenders and lawyers, and concerned members of the public to attend the hearing. The petition seeks to overturn the arbitrary travel ban imposed on Mr. Jabarin by the Israeli military authorities, in time for him to be able to attend a number of international conferences and events to which he has been invited later this year. Travel bans form part of Israel’s repressive and coercive policies against Palestinian students, businesspeople and individuals in need of medical treatment.
The petition to the High Court of Justice, filed by Mr. Jabarin’s lawyer Adv. Michael Sfard, clearly demonstrates how the restrictions on his freedom of movement are illegal and unjustifiable under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and Israeli constitutional law, and therefore calls on the Court to order that the restrictions be lifted.
This hearing is of great significance, not only from the point of view of Mr. Jabarin or Al-Haq, but for the rights of human rights defenders throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The protection of human rights defenders is one of pivotal importance for the promotion of human rights, prompting the EU Council to adopt a mechanism for its enforcement in the EU Guidelines for Human Rights Defenders of June 2004. According to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, human rights defenders in the OPT operate under conditions that are absolutely incompatible with international norms and standards of human rights. One of the biggest obstacles to the work of human rights defenders in the OPT is restrictions on freedom of movement.
The unjustified restrictions on Mr. Jabarin’s freedom of movement have been raised directly with the Israeli authorities by numerous EU member states, including the current Slovenian presidency, as well as prominent international human rights organisations. To date, these interventions have received only vague responses. The diplomatic pressure on Israel regarding Mr. Jabarin thus continues, and the position of the Israeli authorities is now being challenged legally.
It is vital, therefore, that the hearing be used as an opportunity to display support for Mr. Jabarin, as well as to monitor the proceedings and to demonstrate that the injustices being perpetrated by Israeli authorities upon human rights defenders in the OPT are not going unnoticed. Accordingly, we strongly encourage you to attend the hearing, either in your personal or official capacity. It would also be greatly appreciated if you could forward this letter to any other parties you think may be interested. Although the proceedings will be in Hebrew, it will be possible to provide translation in the courtroom itself on an informal basis.
Please do not hesitate to contact [email protected] should you have any questions, comments or require further information pertaining to the case. The address of the High Court of Justice is: Sha‘arei Mishpat, Number 1, Kiryat Hamemshala, Jerusalem. Thank you very much for your support and we look forward to seeing you at the hearing.
Before his travel ban was imposed in 2006, Mr. Jabarin, a longstanding human rights defender, traveled freely to and from the occupied West Bank, going abroad on eight separate occasions between 1999 and February 2006. Mr. Jabarin was then promoted by Al-Haq to the position of General Director. Since October 2006, the Israeli military authorities have repeatedly denied him permission to leave the West Bank to attend human rights conferences in various countries, thereby hindering his professional duties. The ban has effectively been absolute in scope, yet no formal order has been issued, nor have the Israeli authorities explained why the restrictions have been imposed. Further information on the history and circumstances of Mr. Jabarin’s travel ban can be found in previous Al-Haq, Human Rights Watch and Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders press releases.
In June 2007, the Israeli High Court of Justice upheld the restrictions on Mr. Jabarin’s freedom of movement without legal reasoning or justification, on the basis of secret “evidence” which was examined ex parte. A summary and analysis of the hearing is available here.