Addameer condemns Israeli denial of entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory to hundreds of internationals 13Jul11 July 13, 2011

Ramallah, 13 July 2011 – Over the past few days, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association has been visiting some of the more than 80 internationals detained in Ramleh Prison after being arbitrarily denied entry to Israel, and as a result to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), on Friday 8 July. Addameer strongly condemns Israel’s actions as arbitrary restrictions on these individuals’ right to freedom of movement, association, expression and opinion and as evidence that, in addition to the blockade on Gaza, considerable restrictions are also imposed by the Israeli authorities on entry to the occupied West Bank.

The first internationals started arriving in Ben Gurion early Friday 8 July 2011 as part of the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative, a mission organized by Palestinian civil society that would have hundreds of internationals traveling to the oPt through Ben Gurion airport. While a very limited number of internationals were able to transit through Israel and travel onwards to the oPt, the majority were immediately denied entry to Israel and placed in detention, first in various areas of the airport and then in Ramleh and Beersheba Prisons where they were transferred in the evening of 8 July.

According to Law of Entry into Israel, which governs the entry of foreigners to the country, the Ministry of Interior can ban the entrance of non-Israeli citizen. Such a decision, however, must be made on an individual, case-by-case basis and an explanation should be provided to the person slotted for deportation. The decision to deny entry to approximately 120 internationals on 8 July clearly does not comply with these requirements. Instead, Addameer contends that it was a premeditated political decision implemented collectively and arbitrarily against an entire group in order to prevent them from peacefully exercising their right to freedom of opinion, expression and association in support of the Palestinian cause. This decision clearly demonstrates that in addition to its illegal blockade on Gaza, Israel has also adopted a systematic policy of restricting and denying access to the rest of the oPt.

Not content with arbitrarily curtailing their freedom of movement, the Israeli authorities also mistreated a number of the internationals during their detention at the airport. Many of the internationals that Addameer visited in Ramleh Prison between 9 and 12 July reported being left without food or water from the time of their arrival on Friday 8 July until their transfer to prison many hours later. Fadwa Latrach, a 19-year-old French student, reports not being given any food or water between 15:30 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., when she arrived in Ramleh Prison. In addition, during this time, Fadwa was also held in a van with other internationals for approximately one hour with the heating purposefully turned on to cause them discomfort. A number of internationals also reported being beaten at the time of their detention at the airport. Fadwa was kicked in the legs and punched in the face and back by three security forces. Mohamed Najar, a 33-year-old man from Belgium, was attacked twice at the airport. The first time, four or five Israeli policemen tried to forcefully make him board a plane and started punching and kicking him when he refused to do so. Later, Mohamed was beaten again by approximately 10 security forces who threw themselves on him when he tried to protect another woman, Fatiha El Berdali, herself under attack by the Israeli police.

Although Addameer lawyers attempted to visit the internationals in Ramleh Prison as early as Saturday morning, they were first told by the Israeli Prisoner Service (IPS) at Ramleh that the internationals had no right to such visits, in contradiction with the stipulations of the Law of Entry. The lawyers were only allowed to visit the prison as of 2 p.m. that day following discussions with the Attorney General’s office in Tel Aviv. In a further violation of the Law of Entry, the internationals were not given an explanation for their denial of entry or allowed to call their families, leading a number of them to start hunger strike in prison to demand the full application of the law. Following the strike and despite promises that all of them would be allowed to contact their relatives, only a few women were allowed to make such phone calls.

Furthermore, in Ramleh Prison, the IPS used a number of underhanded tactics to trick the internationals into giving up their right to appeal their deportation. It is notably holding the men and women in different sections of the prison and preventing them from communicating with each other to coordinate their response. Within these sections, the Israeli authorities are also separating the internationals into different groups and trying to persuade them to leave voluntarily. Additionally, although these internationals should not be considered as criminal prisoners, they were treated as such by the IPS in a number of aspects, their belongings having been confiscated and many reporting being forced or bribed to clean their cells and the corridors in their section.

Addameer calls on the international community, particularly the embassies and consulates of the internationals in question, to act immediately to condemn Israel’s restrictions on entry to the oPt, lest the events of the past few days set a precedent for all internationals seeking to enter the oPt, in particular for those wishing to rightfully exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression and association in support of the Palestinian cause.

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