The Rights of a Human Rights Activist

By Hiyam Noir

In 1989, Shawan Jabarin 29 , a respected human rights field worker in the West Bank Al-Haq Human Rights organization, was nominated to the Reebok Human Rights Award, given to young people who have contributed to freedom of expression and human rights.

In October 10 1989 Israeli soldiers knocked on the door to Shawan Jabarin’s home near Hebron on the West Bank. A few days earlier while Jabarin was at work the windows on Jabarin’s home was smashed broken, and the front door kicked in. Shawan Jabarin was asleep when suddenly awaken by his wife, in her condition of being in her nine month pregnant. The Israelis took her husband away, he was forced out of his home, not allowed to get dressed.

Outside the house Shawan Jabarin was blindfolded and handcuffed. One Israeli whispered in his ear.. "You are a dog". To silent the sound of Jabarin’s scream for help, the Israelis pushed a cloth into his mouth, they burned him with cigarettes on his ear and his hands. They took him into a bathroom and forced him down on to the tiled floor. One of his tormentors stepped with army boots on Jabarin’s head, chest and hands, jumped on him, while blood was dripping from his back, chest, shoulder and his nose. Jabarin tried to stand up but was shoved back on the hard cold tiled floor with the back of a rifle.

A legal adviser in the Israeli military, confirmed to Mr, Jabarins employer, the West Bank Human rights organization, Al-Haq, that Shawan Jabarin had been beaten while in Israeli military custody, and taken to Jerusalem and the Hadassah Hospital for examination. After that Shawan Jabarin was examined, the doctor said, "this man has been hit on his head, he has difficulties to breath and must be hospitalized".

In 1988 without trial, Shawan Jabarin was detained for nine months, he was taken to the infamous Ketziot prison in the Negev Desert on the pretext that he was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ( PFLP), but Jabarin was never charge on any offense. After he left the detention center, Shawan Jabarin had health problems, a heart problem and severe breathing difficulties. The Israelis have never explained why Jabarin was arrested, and no legal actions was taken against those Israelis who brutalized him.

Travel Restrictions

Travel bans is a part of the Israelis repressive and coercive policies against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories, the Palestinian workers, the students, business people, the sick and injured people in need of medical treatment.

As a representative for Al Haq, a human rights avokate, Shawan Jabarin was traveling abroad on eight separate occasions between 1999 and February 2006. In 2006 Mr. Jabarin was honored by Al-Haq the position of General Director.

Since October 2006, the Israeli military authorities have repeatedly denied Shawan Jabarin permission to leave the West Bank, to attend human rights conferences in various countries. The ban to travel has been absolute, yet no formal order has been issued, and no explanations from the Israeli authorities, why travel restrictions have been imposed.

In June 2007, the Israeli High Court of Justice upheld the restrictions on Mr. Jabarin’s freedom of movement, without legal reasoning or justification, on the pretext of secret “evidence” which was examined ex parte (biased).

The Israeli repeated refusal to allow Mr. Jabarin to travel abroad constitutes an arbitrary and unlawful infringement on his right to freedom of movement. This includes his right to leave his own country, guaranteed in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Israel ratified in 1991.

Hearing in Israeli High Court

On June 3, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hear a petition brought by Mr. Shawan Jabarin. The petition seeks to overturn the arbitrary travel ban imposed on Mr. Jabarin by the Israeli military authorities for him to be able to attend a number of international conferences and events. during the time to which he has been invited later on this year.

The petition filed by Mr. Jabarin’s lawyer Adv. Michael Sfard, to the Israeli High Court of Justice, demonstrates how the restrictions on Shawan Jabarin’s freedom of movement are illegal under international humanitarian law, and Human Rights laws and the Israeli constitutional law, and therefore the restrictions of travel should be lifted.

This hearing in the Israeli High Court of Justice is of great significance, not only for Mr. Shawan Jabarin or Al-Haq, but also for the rights of human rights activists, throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Human rights activists in the OPT work under conditions that are absolutely incompatible with international norms and standards of human rights. The restrictions on freedom of movement is one of the biggest obstacles for human rights defenders in the OPT.

The petition and the history and circumstances of Mr. Jabarin’s travel ban can be found in Al-Haq, Human Rights Watch and Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders press releases.

-Hiyam Noir contributed this article to

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