Dear Minister Barak,
We are writing to request that the Ministry of Defense remove without delay the travel ban that the Israel Defense Forces has placed on Mr. Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Ramallah-based human rights organization, Al Haq. Human Rights Watch works closely with Al Haq, and with Mr. Jabarin in particular. We have invited Mr. Jabarin to attend a regional meeting of our organization to be held in Rabat, Morocco, in mid-June. We would like your assurance that the ban is no longer in place and that Mr. Jabarin will be able to join us at that time.
Between 1999 and March 2006, Mr. Jabarin traveled abroad on eight different occasions. On those occasions Israeli authorities indicated that their review of Mr. Jabarin's file raised no concerns that might justify preventing him from traveling abroad. However, since that time Israeli authorities refused to allow him to do so, and have denied him permission to travel on several occasions over the past two years.
The only thing that changed in Mr. Jabarin's profile was his becoming general director of Al Haq. We addressed a letter to Prime Minister Olmert in March 2007 protesting this restriction on Mr. Jabarin's freedom of movement. Regrettably, what appears to be an arbitrary policy directed at Mr. Jabarin because of his role as a human rights defender remains in place.
Mr. Jabarin filed an appeal to the High Court to have the travel ban lifted and, following a hearing on June 20, 2007, the court rejected his request. In a public statement dated August 2, 2007, the Ministry of Justice stated that the court based its conclusion on "secret evidence" from the commander of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank that Mr. Jabarin "is active in the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine' terror organization." Neither Mr. Jabarin nor his attorney were permitted to view or contest this evidence. According to Mr. Jabarin's attorney, the court urged IDF officials to bring charges against Mr. Jabarin and to cease relying on secret evidence to prevent him from traveling abroad.
Since that court hearing, almost one year ago, IDF officials have made no effort to summon Mr. Jabarin to question him about their concerns, or to investigate the allegations against him.
Under the circumstances, it is difficult to avoid concluding that the IDF's current refusal to allow Mr. Jabarin to travel constitutes an arbitrary and unlawful infringement on his right to freedom of movement, including the right to leave his own country. Although human rights law permits restrictions on freedom of movement for security purposes, the restrictions must have a clear legal basis, be limited to what is necessary, and be proportionate to the threat. Such restrictions are particularly egregious when directed against a person widely known for his defense and promotion of human rights in a scrupulous and impartial manner.
We therefore request that you take immediate steps to ensure the lifting of travel restrictions against Mr. Jabarin, in order that he be able to travel to Rabat in mid-June to attend the regional meeting of Human Rights Watch.
Thank you for your attention to this matter,
Middle East and North Africa division