Controversial figure can leave W. Bank after 6 years

Court rules that Palestinian human rights leader may leave West Bank, following travel ban based on confidential security information.

By
February 23, 2012 03:40
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Justice gavel court law book judge 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

 
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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.

Shawan Jabarin, general director of Ramallah-based NGO Al-Haq (“The Right”), petitioned the court against a travel ban that prevents him from leaving the West Bank.

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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 met.

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.

The 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to leave the West Bank comes after the High Court rejected petitions in 2007, 2008 and 2009 that the travel ban be rescinded, and said that the confidential information provided by the Shin Bet said that he had links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.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 Dr.

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.

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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.

During the hearing, Jabarin's lawyers, attorneys Emily Schaeffer and Michael Sfard, criticized the fact that the travel ban was issued based on confidential information.

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.”

Rubinstein 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.

Al-Haq also welcomed the ruling, describing it in a Twitter post as “just the first crack in the dam.”

Before Wednesday’s hearing, a coalition of human and civil rights organizations issued a joint statement in support of Jabarin’s High Court petition.

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 Al-Haq.

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.”

Attorney 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 visas.

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 groups.

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.

NGO 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.

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