The Israeli High Court of Justice today heard the petition brought by the General Director of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin seeking to overturn the arbitrary travel ban imposed on him by the Israeli occupying authorities, in time for him to travel to the Netherlands next week to receive the ‘Geuzenpenning’ Prize for Human Rights Defenders on behalf of Al-Haq.
Having heard the arguments of Mr. Jabarin's lawyer, Adv. Michael Sfard, and the lawyer for the State of Israel, the three-judge panel then dismissed everyone present in the courtroom except the State's lawyers and a representative of the General Security Services (GSS), who would present secret "evidence" against Mr. Jabarin ex parte. Having reviewed this alleged evidence, the court recalled the public and Mr. Jabarin's lawyer, and announced that another hearing will take place on Monday 9 March at 5:00 pm, in order to give the Israeli authorities time to consider alternatives to the absolute and unconditional ban on Mr. Jabarin leaving the occupied West Bank.
It was clear that the presence of a large number of observers had a bearing on the judges' decision not to dismiss the petition out of hand. As such Mr. Jabarin and Al-Haq would like to express their most sincere thanks to those individuals and organisations who came from near and far to attend the hearing and show their solidarity, including former UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani, representatives from the Dutch embassy, Front Line, Oxfam, the Arab Association for Human Rights, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, Gisha, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), B'Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Minerva Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and others.
Special gratitude must also go to the human rights organisations who yesterday wrote to the Israeli Defence Minister emphasising Mr. Jabarin's right to freedom of movement, including Adalah, Bimkom, Physicians for Human Rights, Hamoked and Rabbis for Human Rights; to ICCO, Novib and Cordaid in the Netherlands for their tireless work promoting the rights of human rights defenders; to the journalists who highlighted Mr. Jabarin's case in the media; and to the numerous other individuals and organisations throughout the world who have campaigned on Mr. Jabarin's behalf, including the Geuzen Resistance Foundation, Amnesty International, Amnesty International – Dutch Section, the Federation International des ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH), the Organisation Mondial Contre le Torture (OMCT) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. There are countless others who should also be thanked, but none more so than Michael Sfard, who has continued to devote unwavering energy and commitment to representing Mr. Jabarin over the last three years.
Mr. Jabarin stated, "Even if the Israeli authorities eventually refuse to allow me to travel next week, we as a human rights community will still have won a victory in this case by raising our voice collectively to challenge the injustice of the occupation. Although the occupying authorities prevented me from attending my own hearing, I felt that I was there in spirit through the presence of my many colleagues and fellow human rights defenders. The collective voice we have raised shows the relentless and growing commitment to the struggle for human rights and justice, which must eventually prevail."