The High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday to allow Palestinian human rights
leader Shawan Jabarin to leave the West Bank for the first time in six years,
after his lawyers reached an agreement with the state.
general director of Ramallah-based NGO Al-Haq (“The Right”), petitioned the
court against a travel ban that prevents him from leaving the West
While the court did not completely lift the travel ban, which is
based on confidential security information, it did accept the state’s agreement
to allow Jabarin to leave Israel to attend a formal conference in Geneva with
Frank La Rue, the UN’s special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the
right to freedom of opinion and expression, as long as certain restrictions are
The panel of justices – Elyakim Rubinstein, Yoram Danziger and Uzi
Vogelman – ruled that Jabarin will be allowed to leave the West Bank only for
the purpose of the conference. He must leave and return via the Allenby Bridge
with Jordan on pre-agreed days and must only attend the conference in Geneva. He
must also sign a pledge stating that he will not contact officials from any
terrorist organizations and must also post a bond of NIS 5,000.
decision to allow Jabarin to leave the West Bank comes after the High Court
rejected petitions in 2007, 2008 and 2009 that the travel ban be rescinded, and
said that the confidential information provided by the Shin Bet said that he had
links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In June 2007, the
court said that alongside Jabarin’s work in Al-Haq, he was active in the
terrorist organization, and that he was “apparently acting as a
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde figure, with part of his time spent as director
of a human rights organization and part being active in a terror organization,
which does not stop at murder and attempted murder.”
Jabarin denies that
he is linked to the PFLP.
In Wednesday’s High Court hearing, part of
which was held behind closed doors due to the confidential security information
being discussed, attorney Tzili Nae, for the IDF commander in Judea and Samaria,
told the court that the state would agree to allow Jabarin to leave the West
Bank to travel to Geneva, as long as certain conditions were met.
the hearing, Jabarin's lawyers, attorneys Emily Schaeffer and Michael Sfard,
criticized the fact that the travel ban was issued based on confidential
Rubinstein said that the issue of confidential information
was already known and that it could not be resolved “for the simple reason that
this is classified information that cannot be given to you.”
added that “here [Jabarin] appears as a human rights activist, but according to
the information we have seen, it is the opposite.”
Following the hearing,
Jabarin’s attorneys said the decision was a “definitely a victory” but noted
that it was only a partial lifting of the travel ban.
welcomed the ruling, describing it in a Twitter post as “just the first crack in
Before Wednesday’s hearing, a coalition of human and civil
rights organizations issued a joint statement in support of Jabarin’s High Court
The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Physicians for Human Rights, the
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Gisha
Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights
all called on the court to lift the travel ban completely, slamming the fact
that it was based on confidential information, and saying it caused “severe
harm” to Jabarin and to his ability to carry out his work with
Gisha executive director Sari Bashi welcomed the decision to
allow Jabarin to travel to Switzerland, and criticized the IDF for using
confidential information as a basis to restrict his movements.
“I am glad
that the court has put an end, for now, to a travel ban that has prevented a
respected human rights activist from carrying out his important work,” Bashi
said. “We hope that the military will desist from hiding behind secret evidence
to restrict Mr.
Jabarin’s travel in the future, too.”
Tamar Feldman, director of ACRI’s Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Department, called the decision a “good beginning.”
“What made this
matter [the travel ban] so harsh was that Jabarin could not leave the West Bank
at all for six years, based on confidential information,” Feldman said, adding
that there was no way to know exactly why Jabarin was denied exit
Feldman said that if any of the allegations against Jabarin were
concrete, it would be possible to address them.
“It’s not clear what the
restrictions actually are, and that’s what is unacceptable, especially because
Jabarin is a public figure,” she said.
Feldman said Al-Haq is supported
by many reputable organizations, including international
According to Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, which last year
compiled a detailed report on Al-Haq’s funders, the organization’s supporters in
2009 included the Ford Foundation and the NGO Development Center, which itself
is funded by Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Monitor legal adviser Anne Herzberg said the High Court’s decision to allow
Jabarin to visit Geneva, but not to lift the travel ban completely, meant that
the legal system was working as it should.
Herzberg said, however, that
Al-Haq could not call itself a human rights group because it did not support
universal human rights.
“Al-Haq rarely speak out to condemn terror
attacks against Israelis and did not condemn the Fogel family massacre [in
Itamar in March 2011], for example,” Herzberg said. She called on the European
groups funding Al-Haq to undertake due diligence to ensure that none of the
money goes to terrorist groups.