Israel/OPT: Amnesty staff member to speak at UN Human Rights Council about his punitive travel ban

As part of an ongoing international campaign, Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) - a Palestinian living in the occupied West Bank - plans to address the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow about the travel ban imposed on him by the Israeli authorities since October 2019 for undisclosed “security reasons”.

“Addressing the Human Rights Council offers a good opportunity to highlight the devastating impact this punitive travel ban has had on Laith’s personal and professional life as a human rights activist,” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director.

“The Israeli authorities must repeal this travel ban, which is directly linked to our colleague’s human rights work, and ensure that he and other human rights defenders can continue with their crucial work without fear of reprisals.”

Addressing the Human Rights Council offers a good opportunity to highlight the devastating impact this punitive travel ban has had on Laith’s personal and professional life as a human rights activist
Saleh Higazi

On 31 May, the Jerusalem District Court heard Amnesty’s petition to lift the unlawful travel ban. However, in a bitter blow for justice and showing complete disregard for the importance of human rights, the judge has accepted the Israeli Security Agency’s position based on the ‘secret information’ which our lawyer was prevented from reviewing and therefore challenging, in clear violation of due process rights. The court is yet to issue its decision but the judge gave a clear indication that he will decide to rubber stamp the ban. Amnesty International now intends to challenge the travel ban at Israel’s Supreme Court.

Laith’s travel ban further illustrates the Israeli authorities’ chilling resolve to silence human rights organizations and activists who are critical of the government. It also highlights the cruel and inhuman nature of their policies towards Palestinians living under occupation.

Background

On 25 March 2020, Amnesty International submitted a petition to the Jerusalem District Court seeking to have the travel ban against Laith Abu Zeyad lifted.

In September 2019, Laith Abu Zeyad applied for a humanitarian permit at al-Zaytoona military checkpoint (Hazatem) near Jerusalem to accompany his mother for medical treatment in Jerusalem. His application was denied on the same day based on “security reasons” without any further explanation.

In December last year Laith was banned from visiting his mother, who was suffering from cancer, and as a result he did not get the opportunity to see her before her death.

On June 2018, Laith Abu Zeyad was among those arbitrarily detained and tortured by Palestinian security forces, during a crackdown on a demonstration organized by Palestinian activists in Ramallah.