Israel/ OPT: Court date set to hear Amnesty petition to lift punitive travel ban on staff member

The Jerusalem District Court has set a date for a hearing on 6 April 2021 in response to Amnesty International’s submission of a new petition to overturn a punitive travel ban imposed on one of its campaigners by the Israeli authorities, the organization said today. 

Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), has been barred from accessing Amnesty International’s office in occupied East Jerusalem or from travelling abroad by the Israeli authorities since October 2019 for undisclosed “security reasons”. This is the second time in a less than a year that the Jerusalem District Court hears a petition from Laith Abu Zeyad against the travel ban.

Amnesty International is urging members of the international community to pressure the Israeli authorities to lift the travel ban on Laith Abu Zeyad and send representatives to attend the court hearing as trial observers to ensure fair trial standards are adhered to.

“This cruel and disgraceful travel ban imposed on Laith Abu Zeyad for the past year and five months shows Israel’s antagonism towards human rights defenders working in the country, particularly Palestinians. Members of the international community must take action and tell Israel this will not stand,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“He is a human rights defender who is being punished for his peaceful activism. His only ‘crime’ appears to be being a Palestinian criticising Israel’s human rights record.

“The travel ban has had a devastating impact on Laith’s personal life and his ability to carry out his work. The world must join our demand for the Israeli authorities to immediately lift the arbitrary travel restrictions once and for all and stop attacks on human rights defenders.”

In September 2019, Laith Abu Zeyad was denied a humanitarian permit at al-Zaytoona military checkpoint (Hazatem) near Jerusalem to accompany his mother for cancer treatment in Jerusalem for undisclosed “security reasons”. He was also banned from visiting his mother at a Jerusalem hospital in December 2019 and as a result did not get to see her before she died. The ban also prevents him from access to Amnesty International’s office in Jerusalem.

In May 2020, a Jerusalem District Court judge heard Amnesty’s petition to lift the unlawful travel ban against Laith Abu Zeyad but accepted the Israeli Security Agency’s secret information that he is a security risk, effectively rubber stamping the ban. Laith Abu Zeyad was denied a special permit to attend his hearing but was represented by his lawyer, Tamir Blank.

During the hearing, Laith’s lawyer and observers from Amnesty International and diplomatic missions were required to leave the court room when the authorities presented the secret information to the judge.

The failure to disclose the information against him is a violation of due process and means he and his lawyers have been given no chance to effectively challenge the claims being made against him.