Urgent Appeal: Travel Ban against Human Rights Defender Yousef Habash

Ramallah, 5 July 2011 – Addameer is gravely concerned about the imposition of a travel ban on a member of its Board of Directors, Yousef Habash, a long-time human rights defender working for the Health Work Committees (HWC) in addition to his activities with numerous other Palestinian civil society organizations.
On 29 June 2011, Mr. Habash arrived at the King Hussein Bridge terminal, intending to exit the occupied Palestinian territory on his way to Jordan and then Europe where he was due to meet with a range of civil society organizations as part of his work with the HWC and other Palestinian platforms. Mr. Habash was also specifically planning on traveling to France as he is in the process of applying for a scholarship at a French university. After presenting his travel documents at the Israeli passport control desk, he was stopped and questioned about his phone number, destination and the purpose and length of his trip. He was then told that he was not allowed to travel but was given no further information on the reasons for, or duration of, his travel ban. Finally, he was made to wait three more hours at the border before being able to go back to go back to Jericho.
Addameer strongly condemns Mr. Habash’s travel ban, which not only violates his fundamental human rights, namely his right to freedom of movement, but also disregards the special protections afforded to him as a human rights defender according to the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on human rights defenders. “Human rights defenders” are formally defined as persons who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. Habash, who currently works as the HWC’s public relations officer, also serves on the board of the First Ramallah Group, is a member of the Euromed Non-Governmental Platform, represents Palestine in the International Forum of national NGO platforms (IFP) and has served on the Steering Committee of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) in the past. His work therefore clearly falls within the category of a human rights defender, in that his activities are peaceful in nature and aimed at the promotion of human rights.
Most recently, Mr. Habash’s work has led him to participate in the International Council of the World Social Forum, which took place in Paris, France in early June 2011. With the imposition of a travel ban, however, Mr. Habash will no longer be able to undertake such important trips. The ban will therefore considerably hamper Mr. Habash’s ability to raise awareness internationally about the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly with regard to the right to health, which forms part of his core media, advocacy and lobbying duties with the HWC.
Addameer therefore calls on the international community to intervene immediately with the Israeli authorities to lift Mr. Habash’s travel ban so that he may continue to carry out his work as a human rights defender unimpeded.