Amnesty International has decried Israel over its “wanton disregard” for international human rights law in the case of an Israeli court upholding a travel ban against a Palestinian campaigner for the Britain-based group.
The human rights organization said on Tuesday that a judge at the Jerusalem District Court “rubber-stamped” a travel ban against Laith Abu Zeyad.
Israel denies the Palestinian his freedom of movement. He has been banned since 2019.
“For the second time in less than a year, Israeli authorities, including the judiciary, have demonstrated their wanton disregard for international human rights law,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general, referring to a previous petition filed for the removal of the ban in November 2020 which was dismissed.
“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,” Callamard said.
She stressed that Israel hit Abu Zeyad with the travel ban as “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 [al-Quds].”
Abu Zeyad learned that he was banned from traveling abroad for “security reasons” after he waited for four hours at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan on October 26, 2019 as he was on his way to attend a relative’s funeral.
For the same undisclosed reasons, Abu Zeyad was denied a humanitarian permit to accompany his mother to Jerusalem al-Quds for cancer treatment in September 2019.
Ahead of the court hearing, 16 human rights groups based in occupied Palestinian territories, including B'Tselem, called for the lifting of the ban on Abu Zeyad.
“Imposing draconian restrictions that deny millions of Palestinians freedom of movement is a key feature of the Israeli regime,” the groups said in a joint statement published in Hebrew on the front page of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday.
“Prohibiting Laith Abu Zeyad from leaving the West Bank is yet another example of Israel's persecution of human rights activists, which is aimed at silencing critics of the regime and of its policies. Nevertheless, these are exactly the measures that expose the nature and goals of the regime.”
According to the Middle East Eye, Hurryyat, a Jerusalem al-Quds-based rights group, has recorded a number of about 8,000 Palestinians who had been banned from leaving the West Bank between 2015 and 2020.
Also in her statement, Callamard warned that a decision to uphold Abu Zeyad's travel ban “will have chilling repercussions not only for Laith, but for all those who undertake human rights work against Israeli violations.”
Callamard said Israel's “attack” on Abu Zeyad and Amnesty is part of “an intensifying campaign” against the human rights group.
“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.”
Callamard also pointed the finger at the international community for its “inaction” with regard to Laith’s case.