Today, 7 December 2009, the Gaza Government police prevented Palestinian travelers from accessing Erez Crossing Point, which links the Gaza Strip with Israel at the northern border of Gaza, and asked them to obtain permission from the 'Travelers Office' at the Ministry of Interior and the 'National Security' apparatus in order for them to be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip.
This measure has followed an online announcement released by the Ministry of Interior in Gaza and the 'National Security' apparatus, informing the public of opening a 'Travelers Office' at the Ministry's premises at Abu Khadra Compound in the Gaza City.
The Ministry instructed Gaza residents who want to travel via Rafah Crossing to register at the 'Travelers Office' three days before their designated travel date in order to obtain the permission.
The Ministry also instructed travelers who are the Gaza residents and employed by the Ramallah Government, but do not go to their work, to obtain a visa from the 'Travelers Office' before registering at the correspondent coordination office.
The undersigned human rights organizations view with grave concern the new restrictions imposed on Gaza citizens’ travel and on their right to free movement and access; especially as those who need to travel via Erez Crossing are predominantly patients referred abroad for life-saving medical treatment at Israeli or West Bank hospitals owing to the lack of treatment for them in Gaza hospitals.
The Israeli authorities have always put pressure on patients by informing them about the approval of their permits to enter Israel for treatment only a few hours before their appointments with the hospitals.
Patients are routinely informed about the approval of their permits at night, mostly at late hours, which practically means that no patient will be able to apply for permission with the new 'Travelers Office'.
The undersigned organizations emphasize that the citizen' right to travel is a constitutional right as well as a human right.
Article 10 of the Palestinian Amended Basic Law, of 2005, states that '[H]uman rights and freedom are essential and should be respected'.
Article 11 of the same law provides that it is not lawful to restrict the freedom of access and movement without a warrant.
Moreover, article 20 of the same law provides that the right to access and movement is ensured by the law.
It must therefore be respected and protected from undue restrictions.
Preventing Palestinian citizens from traveling, including those employed by the Ramallah Government and former security employees, and forcing them to obtain a prior approval from the Ministry of Interior and other public office represent a flagrant violation of human rights particularly article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states “1.
Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence; 2.
Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own'.
This measure also violates article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: '1.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; 2.
[E]veryone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
” It is important to highlight that applying such procedures on a particular group of people represents a grave violation to the fundamental principles of nondiscrimination and equality.
All people must be equal before the law.
The undersigned organizations view with much concern the newly imposed restrictions on Gazan travelers.
They call on the Gaza-Government to revoke any decisions that violate or restrict the basic rights of citizens, particularly in this case, the right to free movement and access; and to due respect of the principles of nondiscrimination and equality before the law.
Under the current conditions of created by the Israeli siege, the Gaza Government must provide to the most possible extant assistance; especially to facilitate patients' travel abroad for treatment.
Ends The signatories: Al Dameer Association for Human Rights Gaza Community Mental Health Program Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights