Amnesty staff member faces punitive travel ban...
The Israeli authorities’ decision to prevent an Amnesty International staff member from travelling abroad for “security reasons”, apparently as a punitive measure against the organization’s human rights work, is another chilling indication of Israel’s growing intolerance of critical voices.
Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), was stopped at the Allenby/King Hussein crossing between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on 26 October while on his way to attend a relative’s funeral. He was kept waiting for four hours before being informed he has been banned from travelling by Israeli intelligence for undisclosed “security reasons”.
“The Israeli authorities’ claim that they have security reasons for banning Laith Abu Zeyad from travelling is totally absurd. Their failure to provide any details to justify the ban reveals its true intent. This is a sinister move imposed as punishment for his work defending human rights of Palestinians,” “It also highlights the cruel and inhuman nature of their policies.” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“The Israeli authorities must immediately lift arbitrary travel bans on Laith Abu Zeyad and all other Palestinian human rights defenders who are being punished for daring to speak out about Israel’s systematic discrimination and human rights violations against Palestinians,” said Kumi Naidoo.
Israel has a track record of using arbitrary travel bans to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and peaceful activists. Omar Barghouti a co-founder of the BDS movement, has been repeatedly and arbitrarily banned from travel since 2016. Shawan Jabarin, Director of Palestinian rights organization al-Haq, has also faced an arbitrary and punitive travel ban.
According to international human rights standards, restrictions on the right to freedom of movement may only be imposed exceptionally, and must be necessary for a legitimate purpose, proportionate and based on clear legal grounds. The reasons must be made clear, and the restrictions should be open to legal challenge. The refusal of the Israeli authorities to make public any evidence to substantiate the reasons for this travel ban means Laith Abu Zeyad has also been denied a meaningful opportunity to challenge the ban in court.
In July 2019, Amnesty International has joined a legal case brought by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to challenge the legality of the Israeli government’s decision to revoke the work permit of its Israel and Palestine Director, Omar Shakir. Israeli authorities ordered him to leave within 14 days, allegedly due to his support for boycotts of Israel.