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Amnesty International: End the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defender Omar Barghouti

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Editor’s Note: The following is a public statement from Amnesty International (PDF). Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

Israeli authorities must immediately end their arbitrary restrictions on prominent Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti’s rights to freedom of movement and guarantee his right to residency, liberty, security of person, and freedom of expression. Israel’s Ministry of Interior must renew Omar Barghouti’s travel document and ensure he can leave and return to the country freely. Amnesty International remains concerned for the safety and liberty of Omar Barghouti following statements made by Israeli officials, including threats of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights.

Omar Barghouti is a co-founder of the BDS movement. He campaigns to hold Israel accountable for human rights and other international law violations and advocates for the use of non-violent means in doing so. The de facto travel ban is part of long-standing attacks by the Israeli authorities on Omar Barghouti that aim at preventing him from carrying out campaigning work. During an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016, Omar Barghouti was verbally attacked by several Israeli officials, including Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri, who said he was considering revoking Omar Barghouti’s permanent residency in Israel and depriving him of the right to travel freely. An especially alarming statement came from Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz who called on Israel to engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence. The term alludes to “targeted assassinations” which is used to describe Israel’s policy of targeting members of Palestinian armed groups. Other ministers including Gilad Erdan the Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information described BDS activists and leaders as threats and called for them to “pay the price” for their work following this with a clarification that he does not mean “physical harm.”

Omar Barghouti (Image: Carlos Latuff)

As a permanent resident of Israel, Omar Barghouti holds an Israeli travel document, which is the only paperwork that allows him to leave and return to the country. The Israeli authorities started proceedings in 2014 to revoke his permanent residency starting with an investigation into his place of residence and, as a result, the Ministry of Interior repeatedly rejected or unduly delayed Omar Barghouti’s applications to renew his travel document, preventing him from travel, including on 10 May 2016, when his application was rejected. On 19 July 2016, a Haifa District Court decision stated that there is no reason for the Ministry of Interior to refuse renewing Omar Barghouti’s travel document. In January 2018, and despite an urgent request by Omar Barghouti through his lawyer to renew his travel document so that he can travel to Jordan and support his mother during critical cancer surgery there, the Ministry of Interior delayed the renewal of his travel document until after the surgery was over. The latest travel document renewal he was granted was on 16 September 2018, and that expired on 15 December 2018. He has since been under a de facto travel ban despite submitting new applications and having written, through his lawyer, three times to the Ministry of Interior, most recently on 21 January 2019, requesting an explanation for the delay and urging action; he has so far received no substantive answer.

Omar Barghouti has expressed great concern regarding the threats and actions by Israeli authorities and officials. He told Amnesty International: “Israel’s far-right government is increasingly revealing the scope of its widely condemned 2016 threat to carry out a ‘targeted civil elimination’ against me over my involvement in the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated BDS movement for Palestinian rights. Through ongoing, desperate attempts to tarnish my reputation as a human rights defender, to impose de facto travel bans on me, and to implicitly incite violence against me, Israel hopes to disrupt my life and silence me through intimidation. I am clearly concerned, but I am not and shall not be deterred.”

Omar Barghouti is invited to speak at a conference on solidarity in London from 22 to 26 February 2019. He told Amnesty International: “This latest de facto travel ban may be an attempt to prevent me from speaking at the prestigious Axis of Solidarity conference, organized by the Tate Modern museum in London and Cornell University.” He said that he is gravely concerned about his safety and that of his family: “Israel’s multi-faceted persecution against me for the last five years is taking its toll on my family, no doubt. We cannot plan simple family gatherings, and my older daughter is worried I shall not be able to travel to her wedding.”

The Israeli authorities use a range of measures, including detentions, movement restrictions, judicial harassment and incitement campaigns, both in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), to target activists, including human rights defenders, who criticize Israel’s continuing military occupation. In 2017 they amended the Entry into Israel Law, Amnesty International Public Statement 2 which bans entry into Israel or the OPT of anyone supporting or working for an organization that promotes a boycott of Israel or Israeli entities, including settlements. In implementing the provision, they have denied entry to human rights defenders, lawyers, students and doctors.

Israeli authorities have an obligation to respect human rights, including freedom of opinion and expression, without discrimination. They must end their persecution of Omar Barghouti, uphold his freedom of movement and stop any actions aimed at revoking his permanent residency in Israel.

About Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.

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  1. Misterioso
    Misterioso on February 9, 2019, 9:03 am

    Another timely missive from Professor Lawrence Davidson:

    “International Law Under Threat—An Analysis (9 February 2019) by Professor Lawrence Davidson”

    “Several recent events suggest that global warming is not the only thing threatening our future. As if they are running on parallel tracks, some of the modern institutions that help make for stable societies—the ones that hold back the rise of barbarism—are being weakened even as the atmosphere is heating up and the oceans swell. In pursuit of short-term state or personal interests, some national leaders are violating or ignoring international law and, by doing so, putting us all at long-term risk.

    “Part I—The First Example: Subverting the International Criminal Court”

    “One of the most hopeful developments to follow the catastrophe that was World War II—the war that brought the world the Holocaust, the Blitzkrieg, the carpet bombing of Europe, and the use of nuclear bombs against large cities—was the extension and strengthening of international law. In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, seeking to give such laws real force, called for the establishment of an international criminal court. That call triggered resistance because such a court would necessarily impinge on nation-state sovereignty. It took 54 years before the court was finally convened in order to enforce laws against the committing of war crimes and other evils, such as genocide.

    “Still, there are some nations that refuse to recognize the court’s jurisdiction. Often these are the states most addicted to the barbaric behavior that came close to destroying a good part of the globe during the 20th century. These governments now threaten the very workability of the court. Thus, on 28 January 2019 it was reported that “A senior judge has resigned from one of the international courts in The Hague” due to interference and threats coming from both the U.S. and Turkey. The judge’s name is Christoph Flügge.

    “In the case of the United States, the problem began when the International Criminal Court at the Hague decided to investigate allegations of war crimes, specifically the use of torture, committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. At that point President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton (who reminds one of a modern Savonarola when it comes to ideological enforcement), publicly threatened the court’s judges. ‘If these judges ever interfere in the domestic concerns of the US or investigate an American citizen,’ he said, ‘the American government would do all it could to ensure that these judges would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States—and that they would perhaps even be criminally prosecuted.”

    “It must be said that (a) torturing Afghanis is not a ‘domestic concern of the U.S.” And, all too obviously, (b) Mr. Bolton is a deplorable one-dimensional thinker. Bound tightly by a lifelong right wing perspective, he has never been able to get past the concept of nation-state supremacy. This means his perspective is untouched by those lessons of history which have shown the nation-state to be a threat to civilization itself. Thus, when in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations, it was with the prior knowledge that the man felt nothing but contempt for this international organization and would disparage it at every turn. At present Bolton has turned out to be just the kind of fellow who fits into the reactionary White House run by Donald Trump.

    “The leaders of the United States are not the only ones who can purposely undermine international courts. Christoph Flügge tells of another incident wherein the government of Turkey arrested one of its own nationals, Aydın Sefa Akay, who was a judge on the international court at the Hague. At the time, Mr. Akay had diplomatic immunity by virtue of his position, a fact that the increasingly statist government in Istanbul ignored. Mr. Akay’s crime was to be judged insufficiently loyal to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flügge and his fellow judges strongly protested the Turkish actions, but they were not supported by the present UN Secretary General, António Guterres (who himself is a former prime minister of Portugal). And, without that support, Akay lost his position as judge and was, so to speak, thrown to the dogs of nation-state arrogance.

    “Upon resigning, Judge Flügge had some seminal words of warning about the fate of international law. ‘Every incident in which judicial independence is breached is one too many.’ The cases of Turkish and U.S. interference with the International Criminal Court set a fatal precedent ‘and everyone can invoke it in the future. Everyone can say: ‘But you let Turkey get its way.’ This is an original sin. It can’t be fixed.’ Commenting on the threat leveled by John Bolton, Flügge said, the American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. …The judges on the court were stunned.’ Yet, this behavior was quite in accord with nation-state aggrandizement and American exceptionalism—national sovereignty stands above international law.

    “Part II—The Second Example: Suborning of International Police”

    “It is not only the world’s international laws and international court that are being undermined, but also Interpol, the world’s international police force. Nation-state leaders, particularly the dictators who place their interests and preferences above even their own domestic law, now seek to suborn Interpol and use it as a weapon to silence their critics.

    “The latest example of this comes out of Bahrain. Bahrain is a wealthy monarchical dictatorship in the Persian Gulf. It is run by a Sunni elite minority which systematically represses the country’s Shiite majority. By doing so, its major ‘achievement’ to date has been to give the religion of Islam a bad name. It is also a staunch U.S. ally, and the U.S. 5th fleet is based in that country. If you want to know where much of the U.S. naval forces supporting the Saudi destruction of Yemen come from, it is Bahrain.

    “So how is the dictatorship in Bahrain corrupting the world’s international police force? One of the players on Bahrain’s national soccer team, Hakeem al-Araibi, vocally expressed his dissent over the way Bahrain is run. He was then framed for ‘vandalizing a police station’ even though he was playing in a soccer match, broadcast on TV, at the time of the incident. He was arrested, beaten up in jail, yet still managed to escape to Australia, where he was granted asylum. At this point Bahrain managed to have interpol issue a fraudulent arrest warrant. When Mr. al-Araibi showed up in Thailand on his honeymoon, he was taken into custody and now awaits possible extradition back to Bahrain, where he may well face torture. By the way, it is a violation of international law to extradite someone to a country where he or she risks being tortured. So far Thailand has not taken advantage of this legal and moral reason to defy the Bahraini monarchy.

    “This is not an isolated problem. The watchdog organization Fair Trials has documented multiple cases of the corruption and abuse of Interpol by ‘governments’ which do not feel themselves bound by the rule of law.

    “Part III—Conclusion”

    “There is little doubt that the 21st century has begun with an assault on both the climatic and legal atmosphere that underpins the world’s stability.

    “Before 1946 the world was a mess: one hot war after another, economic recessions and depressions, imperialism, colonialism, and racism galore. All of this was grounded in the nation state and its claim of sacred sovereignty. The world experienced a sort of climax to this horror show in the form of Nazi racism and the Holocaust, the use of nuclear weapons, and Stalinist Russia’s purges, mass starvations and Gulag exiles.

    “After World War II, things got better in a slow sort of way. The trauma of the recent past spurred on the formation of international laws, international courts, a universal declaration of human rights, civil rights movements and the like. We also got the Cold War, which, for all its tensions, was a big improvement on hot wars.

    “Now things are falling apart again, and rest assured that U.S. leaders and their less savory allies abroad are doing their part in the devolution of peace and justice. Shall we name just a few U.S. names? Well, there is President Donald Trump and his minion John Bolton. They go gaga over thugs passing themselves off as presidents in such nation-states as Egypt, the Philippines and that pseudo-democracy, Israel. There is also Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has turned into the U.S. version of Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to Washington’s South America foreign policy. He is the one pushing for the overthrow of the legitimate government in Venezuela while simultaneously calling for close relations with the new fascist president of Brazil.

    “And the list goes on. How do we do this to ourselves? Is it short memories of the wretched past or almost no historical memory at all? Is it some sort of perverse liking for group violence? This is an important question and a perennial one. But now, with global warming upon us and lifestyles soon to be under threat, things are going to get even more messy—and messy social and economic situations are usually good news for barbarians. More than ever, we are going to need uncorrupted international laws, courts and police.

    Lawrence Davidson
    [email protected]


    • RoHa
      RoHa on February 10, 2019, 1:15 am

      “They go gaga over thugs passing themselves off as presidents …”

      This has been normal for US presidents for many, many, years.

      (Branco, Pinochet, Batista, Suharto, Hussein (Sadam), Rhee, Somosa, Mobutu,to name a few.)

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