Israel/OPT: ‘Chilling repercussions’ of travel ban on Amnesty campaigner must be a wake-up call for all

A judge at the Jerusalem District Court today indicated that a travel ban will be upheld against Laith Abu Zeyad, an Amnesty International campaigner, who has been denied freedom of movement, including being barred from travelling abroad, by Israel since October 2019. The judge accepted the Israeli Security Agency’s position that he constitutes a security threat effectively rubberstamping the ban. Responding to the decision Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“For the second time in less than a year, Israeli authorities, including the judiciary, have demonstrated their wanton disregard for international human rights law, by signalling they plan to uphold an unlawful travel ban on our friend and colleague Laith Abu Zeyad. Laith has now been living under these arbitrary restrictions for more than 500 days and the Israeli authorities have yet to provide an adequate explanation, beyond the bogus claim that Laith poses a ‘security threat’, which they never specified.

“The travel ban on Laith Abu Zeyad is a reprisal for his work as a human rights defender. It has prevented Laith from doing critical advocacy work internationally and barred him from working at Amnesty International’s office in occupied East Jerusalem.  A decision to uphold his travel ban will have chilling repercussions not only for Laith, but for all those who undertake human rights work against Israeli violations.

The travel ban on Laith Abu Zeyad is a reprisal for his work as a human rights defender... A decision to uphold his travel ban will have chilling repercussions not only for Laith, but for all those who undertake human rights work against Israeli violations.
Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International

“This attack on Laith Abu Zeyad and Amnesty International is part of an intensifying campaign by the Israeli authorities against the human rights movement. For years now, Israel’s oppressive rule over the Occupied Palestinian Territories has punished those who dare to challenge its abysmal human rights record or criticize the occupation. Palestinian human rights defenders and activists receive the brute end of this punishment.  Laith’s case is emblematic of the failure of the international community to effectively challenge Israeli violations. Inaction by third states has meant that Israel has been able to continue its systematic violation of Palestinian human rights, including an onslaught against the human rights movement, with impunity.”

Background

On 18 February, Amnesty International filed a new petition to overturn a travel ban against campaigner Laith Abu Zeyad after learning that an earlier administrative petition filed with the Israeli army in November 2020 had been dismissed.

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 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 unfounded assertion 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. The information the authorities provided to the court against him was kept secret and could not be challenged. His 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.