Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Human rights groups reject West Bank travel ban

By Amira Hass

19 December 2006

International organizations in the territories are still
reviewing the implications of a ban prohibiting Israelis
to give rides to Palestinians within the West Bank. The
order was issued by GOC Central Command Yair Naveh.

Officials from a few organizations, most of them United
Nations groups, told Haaretz that the issue was under
legal review. The order, dated November 19, is scheduled
to take effect on January 19, 2007. In a letter sent to
the international organizations, the Israeli human rights
group Yesh Din - whose volunteers help Palestinians file
complaints against settlers - asked the foreign groups to
tell Israeli security authorities they would not comply
with the directive, by which they must obtain permits to
drive Palestinians.

In the meantime, security authorities promised
UN-affiliated groups that the order did not apply to them,
and they would not be required to obtain permits. The
groups asked for the promise to be put in writing.

The order explicitly includes resident foreign nationals
in the ban. The order states: "An Israeli will not
transport in an Israeli vehicle within the area a person
who is not Israeli, except in accordance with a permit
given to him or given to the person who is not Israeli."
It clearly states that for this purpose, "Israeli" means
"a person registered in the Population Registry ...
including anyone given a visa and license to reside in

A member of one of the organizations told Haaretz the
groups were aware of the threat to the rights promised to
their employees and that some recognized the possibility
that the authorities could at some point require the
groups to apply for permits - despite the verbal promise.

Anders Fange, head of United Nations Relief and Works
Agency activities in the West Bank, told Haaretz that
irrespective of the military waiver, "my personal opinion
is that the UN is obligated to oppose any order that can
be seen as a violation of human rights or international
humanitarian law. If it turns out that the law does not
meet with international norms, we will bring it up before
the Israeli authorities."

Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's attorney, wrote the
international organizations that the order was in clear
violation of international human rights law.

He drew attention to the fact that even if the foreign
nationals working for the organization are immune to
prosecution for violating the order, any Palestinians they
transport will not enjoy immunity.

Several Israeli organizations, including the Association
for Civil Rights in Israel, Machsom Watch and Yesh Din,
have already announced their intention to ignore the order
and say they will not apply for permits.

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