Today, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to the Israeli Minister of Interior, Meir Shitreet and Attorney General (AG) Menachem Mazuz, demanding that they lift the ban imposed on Professor Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, from entering these areas. At the order of the ministry of the interior, the border police denied Prof. Falk entry into Israel yesterday, 14 December 2008, on his way to the West Bank to carry out his official functions. He was deported from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv this morning, 15 December 2008.
In March 2008, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted to appoint Prof. Falk to this position as UN Special Rapporteur for a six-year term. Prof. Falk’s duties include preparing reports on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), informing the UN about his work and conclusions, and suggesting ways of alleviating these violations. Prof. Falk is an eminent expert in international law and works as a lecturer at several prominent universities in the United States, including the University of California at Santa Barbara and Princeton University. He has published several seminal books on the subject of international law and human rights.
Prof. Falk’s arbitrary denial of entry into Israel is a severe blow to the rights of the Palestinian civilian population living under Israeli occupation, a population which must be afforded protection by the occupier under international humanitarian law. Denying Prof. Falk’s entry also impairs the work of numerous human rights organizations and human rights defenders working in Israel and the OPT to protect and advance the human rights of Palestinians.
In the letter, Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker argued that it is Israel’s obligation as a member of the UN and a signatory to various international human rights conventions to respect the work of UN representatives, to enable their human rights missions and to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities without fear of repercussions. Further, it is Israel’s responsibility to grant entry to Prof. Falk as part of its obligation to adhere to the principles of international law protecting the Palestinian residents of the OPT.
Prof. Falk last entered Israel in June 2008 in his capacity as a scholar to attend an academic conference. On the eve of his visit, the press reported that it was the intention of the ministry of the interior to prevent him from entering the country because of his sharp criticisms of Israel’s human rights record in the OPT. Adalah sent a letter to the ministry at that time requesting clarification, following which Prof. Falk was permitted to enter Israel. It is therefore apparent that the reason for the denial of his entry on this occasion is due to the purpose of his visit, which is to prepare a report on the situation of human rights in the OPT. Refusing entry on these grounds is an illegitimate reason.