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Netherlands bans British-Palestinian surgeon from entry

May 10, 2024 at 11:42 am

Palestinian origin British rector of University of Glasgow, Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who is prevented to enter Germany by the airport security, attends a protest against the police break up Palestine Congress in Berlin, in London, United Kingdom on April 12, 2024. [Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu via Getty Images]

The Netherlands banned British-Palestinian surgeon, Ghassan Abu-Sittah, from entering the country due to a Schengen-wide ban introduced by Germany, a prominent Dutch rights group announced yesterday.

“While Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slot shakes hands with one Israeli official after another involved in serious crimes in Gaza, the Dutch government prohibits British Palestinian doctor Ghassan Abu-Sittah from entering the country. The surgeon, also rector of the University of Glasgow, witnessed the Israeli massacre in Gaza during the first months of Israel’s offensive,” said the Rights Forum, which had invited Abu-Sittah to speak at an event on 17 May in Amsterdam.

Commenting on the issue, the Rights Forum’s Director, Gerard Jonkman, said: “It is shocking and as far as we are concerned completely unacceptable that Abu-Sittah is now also denied entry to the Netherlands. Apparently, our government considers his testimony a threat to the close relationship with Israel and Dutch complicity in the massacre in Gaza.”

“The decision is in direct violation of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of speech,” he added.

As a result of the Netherland’s denial of entry for Abu-Sittah, the Palestinian mission in the country announced yesterday that it had cancelled an event to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Nakba that was scheduled to take place on 15 May.

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In its letter, the mission said Abu-Sittah’s “story provides a personal insight into the ongoing Nakba to which the Palestinian people are subjected to for 76 years.”

“Dr. Abu Sitta is an important witness to the calculated conditions brought forth by Israel, the occupying power, to cause the physical destruction of the Palestinian people and their removal from their national homeland, in continuity of the Nakba.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Germany to clarify the situation. “Germany’s government needs to explain publicly if it has imposed a Schengen-wide entry ban on a prominent British-Palestinian surgeon and academic, Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah, and, if so, the reasons why,” the rights group said today.

“Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah has seen first-hand the atrocities taking place in Gaza,” said UK Director, Yasmine Ahmed. “Germany should immediately explain why it has denied him entry and imposed this far-reaching ban on a leading health professional to speak in Berlin, Paris, and The Hague about what he witnessed in Gaza.”

The attempts to prevent him from sharing his experience treating patients in Gaza risks undermining Germany’s commitment to protect and facilitate freedom of expression and assembly and to nondiscrimination, Human Rights Watch added.

Abu-Sittah travelled to Gaza on 9 October 2023 after Israel launched its genocidal war on the enclave and worked in the Strip’s hospitals for 43 days.

He was invited to a conference in the German capital, Berlin, in April to talk about his experiences in Gaza but was denied entry and deported.

On 4 May, Abu-Sittah was also denied entry to France where he was due to speak at a symposium in the Senate, he was informed that Germany had imposed a Schengen-wide “administrative ban” on him for one year.