Laith Abu Zeyad

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers condemns the ongoing Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders. Most recently, Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty International campaigner on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, was banned from international travel by the Israeli occupation authorities. They cited undisclosed “security reasons” to ban Abu Zeyad from traveling to Jordan for a family member’s funeral. This refusal comes after a September denial of a permit for him to accompany his mother seeking medical treatment for cancer in Jerusalem.

The travel ban imposed on Laith Abu Zeyad is only the most recent of an ongoing series of attacks on the civil and political rights of Palestinian human rights defenders and organizations working to defend Palestinian rights. Travel bans, designed to hinder cooperation and prevent Palestinians from telling their stories to the world or engaging in global advocacy for Palestinian rights, are imposed under a “security” guise. In particular, this ban prevents Abu Zeyad from advocating at the United Nations and other international bodies for accountability for the Israeli occupation regime as well as the advancement of Palestinian rights.

Abu Zeyad is not alone. As noted by the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, Abdul-Latif Gheith, the former Board Chair of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, has been banned from travel outside Palestine and even from leaving Jerusalem. Shawan Jabarin, the General Director of Al-Haq, was subjected to a travel ban. After her release from administrative detention and prior to her most recent re-arrest, Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar was also banned from traveling abroad despite many invitations to speak.

In the past several years, Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, has been repeatedly prevented from traveling outside Palestine. This prevention has come in the forms of delayed or denied renewals of residence permits by the Israeli state as well as politically motivated visa denials, most recently by the U.S. Barghouti was denied the ability to attend the Labour Party conference in the U.K. in September 2019 because his visa approval was delayed until the conference had already ended. There is also a public consideration of the Interior Minister to withdraw the residency of Omar Barghouti, which poses a threat not only to him but to all vulnerable Palestinians living with residency permits.

Raji Sourani, one of our Bureau members, is not with us as we consider this resolution because of the siege on Gaza, which is a fundamental travel ban imposed on two million Palestinians.

Travel bans on Palestinian advocates and human rights defenders come hand in hand with Israel’s denial of entry to international human rights defenders, advocates for Palestinian rights and even fact-finding missions. Human Rights Watch Israel/Palestine Country Director, Omar Shakir, was ordered deported by Israeli authorities, an order confirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court on 5 November. This ruling once again underlines the lack of independence of the Israeli judicial system and its involvement in the suppression of Palestinian rights.

Shakir’s case is not alone. Many international advocates for justice in Palestine are routinely denied access to visit or work in Palestine, including multiple members of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and its member organizations. The so-called “anti-boycott” law prohibits entry of any supporters of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel from entering occupied Palestine.

Israel’s campaign against human rights defenders also encompasses a range of international propaganda efforts designed to undermine campaigners for the rights of the Palestinian people. Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs has sent representatives to various European countries in an attempt to cut off funding for Palestinian human rights defenders. It has attempted to ban Palestinian rights advocates from speaking in the European Parliament, a campaign that has been so far unsuccessful. Further, it has released a series of reports in an attempt to smear Palestinian human rights defenders with the “terrorist” label and criminalize advocacy for Palestinian rights. In particular, the Israeli state has engaged in efforts internationally to repress the BDS campaign, including supporting measures to criminalize or legally repress BDS advocacy in Europe and the United States.

Human rights defenders include all of those people who work non-violently to achieve any or all of the rights defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All of the people named here fall clearly within this definition, as do many other Palestinian human rights defenders and international HRDs who have faced comprehensive repression by the Israeli state, including travel bans, denial of entry, threats to their residency and even arrest and imprisonment under administrative detention. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998, enumerates several forms of protection that must be provided to human rights defenders, including the right to seek the realization of human rights nationally and internationally and conduct human rights work. In addition, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right of people to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention as well as their rights to liberty, security, peaceful assembly and to freedom of movement, including the right to leave their country and return to it. These actions violate Israel’s responsibilities under international law.

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers urges the immediate end to the travel ban imposed on Laith Abu Zeyad and all other Palestinian human rights defenders, as well as the systematic exclusion of international advocates for justice from occupied Palestine. We view these denials as part and parcel of the Israeli occupation’s ongoing attempt to preserve its control, expand its colonial power and deprive Palestinians of their fundamental rights to self-determination, national liberation, equality and return to the homes and lands from which they were displaced. Further, they illustrate once more the urgency of the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

To this end, the IADL will:

  1. Publicly advocate for the rights of Laith Abu Zeyad and all other Palestinians targeted by travel bans and continue to invite Palestinian human rights defenders to speak and be heard in international forums.
  2. Continue its activities to hold Israeli officials accountable before the International Criminal Court.
  3. Intensify our work to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign as an international popular mechanism of accountability for the Israeli occupation and to achieve and implement Palestinian rights to self-determination, liberation, equality and return as affirmed by multiple United Nations resolutions.
  4. Send this resolution to all UN missions.