Travel bans violate freedom of movement Adri Nieuwhof and Jeff Handmaker, The Electronic Intifada, 19 March 2009
Despite international media attention and considerable diplomatic pressure from the Netherlands, Israel did not allow the general director of the Palestinian organization Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, to travel to the Netherlands to receive the prestigious Dutch Geuzenpenning award for human rights defenders on 13 March 2009. Israel's travel ban on Jabarin and other human rights defenders on the basis of secret evidence violates principles for a fair trial and the basic human right of free movement, resembling the behavior of the apartheid regime in South Africa.Al-Haq is an independent, Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. The Geuzenpenning honors the historic resistance group, the Geuzen, who fought the occupying German army in the Netherlands during the Second World War. The Geuzenpenning award keeps alive the ideals of resisting oppression and promoting and maintaining democracy as well as heightening awareness in the Netherlands and globally of all forms of dictatorship, discrimination and racism. The Israeli government has forbidden Shawan Jabarin from traveling abroad ever since he was appointed director of Al-Haq in 2006. Before his appointment, Jabarin traveled to many countries, including Ireland, where he received a master's degree in human rights in 2005. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen reportedly put a lot of pressure on his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, though clearly to no avail. In a hearing before the Israeli high court that violated several universal principles of a fair trial, a hearing which Jabarin also could not attend because of his confinement to the West Bank, the panel of three judges once again revealed its impotence in the face of absurdly unsupportable "security" concerns. After dismissing everyone from the courtroom except for the Israeli government lawyer and a representative of the Israeli General Security Service (GSS), which presented evidence that was never disclosed to Jabarin or his lawyers, the judges decided to maintain his travel ban. The cryptic ruling of the court mentioned that:"[T]he fact cannot be ignored that the West Bank is a closed military zone, entry and exit from which require a permit. The right to freedom of movement is examined in view of [Israel's] special legislation for the area. ... The material pointing to Jabarin's involvement in the activity of terrorist entities is concrete and reliable material. No permission to leave the country is no punishment for his forbidden activities but due to relevant security considerations."Minister Verhagen commented in an official press release that "It is disappointing, and disquieting, that [Jabarin] has been denied the opportunity to receive the Geuzen Medal." Verhagen was publicly critical of the fact that the Israeli court's judgment of the GSS that Jabarin is or was a member of a terrorist organization was based on evidence to which Jabarin and his legal team had no access.Although Jabarin was unable to receive the Geuzenpenning award in person, he did participate in the ceremony by way of a video link with Ramallah. In a response to the decision by the Israeli high court to uphold the GSS travel ban, Al-Haq replied through a press release issued on 11 March: "Once again, the Israeli judiciary demonstrates its subservience to the military and security authorities."Israel's treatment of human rights defenders like Jabarin recall Archbishop Desmond Tutu's protest of "the whole phalanx of draconian laws such as the security legislation" that violated the rights of those who rejected apartheid in South Africa. During the South African apartheid regime, persons considered by the Minister of Law and Order a threat to the security of the state were indefinitely detained in solitary confinement, with no contact with their family or a lawyer. Additionally, persons were placed under travel ban orders arbitrarily and the evidence "justifying" the orders not tested in an open court.'
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