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British Palestinian surgeon wins legal battle against Germany's travel ban

May 15, 2024 at 2:25 pm

British-Palestinian surgeon Professor Ghassan Abu Sitta

In a significant legal victory, Professor Ghassan Abu Sitta, a renowned British-Palestinian war surgeon, has successfully overturned a Schengen-wide travel ban imposed on him by the German government. Abu Sitta’s legal team — lawyer Alexander Gorski of the International Centre of Justice for Palestine (ICJP), and the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC) — challenged the ban, which they argued had deprived the surgeon of his freedom of expression and freedom to travel.

His lawyers described how he had faced hostile media and a travel ban after returning from Gaza, where he worked in hospitals and witnessed war crimes during Israel’s ongoing military offensive. The ban prevented him from entering France, the Netherlands and Germany, where he had been invited to speak about his experiences.

The ban also extended to joining a German conference online, with the German authorities warning Abu Sitta that if he took part it would “constitute a breach of German law” and could result in fines or imprisonment. Most recently, he was prevented from entering the Netherlands, where he was due to speak later this week to civil society organisations and Dutch MPs at the University of Amsterdam.

“These efforts by the German authorities constitute a serious breach of freedom of movement and expression in Europe and now a judge has ruled that the travel ban should be overturned,” said the ICJP. “This is a significant victory for freedom of speech and a significant turning point in challenging the chilling environment that many Palestinian human rights advocates have to operate in.”

ICJP lawyer Gorski emphasised that the victory ensures that Abu Sitta’s freedom of expression and movement are no longer under threat, allowing him to speak out about what he witnessed in Gaza.

Since leaving the Palestinian enclave in late November, Abu Sitta has been raising awareness about the impact of Israel’s war, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. During his time in Gaza, he became the unofficial English-language representative of Palestinian doctors and surgeons treating the wounded, accusing Israel’s military of using illegal white phosphorus and deliberately targeting children.

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