(Jerusalem) - The Israeli High Court's decision on March 10 to block travel outside the West Bank of the human rights defender Shawan Jabarin violates his rights to a fair hearing and freedom of movement, Human Rights Watch said today.

Based on secret evidence that neither Jabarin nor his lawyer were allowed to see, the court refused to lift a travel ban imposed on Jabarin by military order in 2006, shortly after he became the director of Al-Haq, a leading human rights organization in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Jabarin had petitioned to have the ban lifted in order to travel to the Netherlands this week, where he was to receive the prestigious 2009 Geuzen Medal, awarded by the Stichting Geuzenverzet Foundation, on behalf of Al-Haq. The Israel-based human rights group B'Tselem was the co-winner of this year's award.

On March 5, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, asking him "to intervene with [his] counterparts in Tel Aviv, so that they may understand the significance of the Geuzen Medal, and the counter-productive decision to block a human rights defender from conducting his work."

In May 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asking him to lift Jabarin's travel ban.

"The travel ban on Shawan Jabarin does nothing to keep Israel safe, and instead keeps a human rights defender from doing his work," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Jabarin is a strong advocate for the rule of law who routinely criticizes both Israeli and Palestinian authorities for violating human rights."