Al Mezan’s General Director, Issam Younis, was yesterday prevented from attending a meeting with the British Foreign Minister, Margaret Beckett, to brief her on the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli District Civil Liaison (DCL), that controls all access into Israel through the Erez checkpoint, delayed the processing of the required clearance permit and imposed obstacles that effectively made it impossible for Mr Younis to reach his meeting in Jerusalem.
Despite applying three days in advance for his permit, Mr Younis was informed only two hours before the commencement of his meeting which had been scheduled for the 6th of February at 6.00 pm. The journey between Gaza City and Jerusalem typically takes between 3 and 6 hours depending on the waiting time at Erez checkpoint, thus Mr Younis was effectively prevented from reaching his meeting at the pre-arranged time.
In addition to this, in what Al Mezan understands to be an unprecedented action, the DCL imposed two further obstacles hindering Mr Younis’s ability to meet with Ms Beckett. The DCL demanded that Mr Younis both sign a letter committing himself from abstaining from contacting ‘hostile parties’, and that he be chaperoned from the Israeli side of the Erez checkpoint by the British Consulate. Not only were those ‘hostile parties’ left undefined, but the extra time needed in order for British Consulate officials to reach Erez checkpoint in order to fulfill this condition again added to the journey time to Jerusalem.
Al Mezan contends that this irrational restriction to the freedom of movement of Mr Younis is a clear violation of his basic right to free movement as guaranteed by international law. Moreover, it also asserts that the restriction of such movement to an individual working in his capacity as a human rights defender is a violation of particular severity.
Due to the obstacles erected by the Israeli DCL, Mr Younis was de facto prevented from leaving Gaza to meet with Ms Beckett. Indeed, no representative from Gaza was thus present to brief Ms Beckett and offer her a full account of the human rights violations occurring within the Gaza Strip based on detailed fieldwork and in depth monitoring. This is especially problematic at this current time as the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip - a concern for the entire international community - is rapidly deteriorating. Gaza remains under a tight siege, basic human rights are suffering as a result of the international boycott, and interfactional fighting has recently escalated past all red lines.