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British human rights lawyer denied entry to Israel

by Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Monday, May. 29, 2006 at 7:29 PM

British human rights lawyer, Kate Maynard, has been denied entry to Israel – faced with a claim that she presents a security threat to the state. Despite a court ruling Ms Maynard has been deported and future access to her clients remains in the hands of the Israeli security establishment.

Kate Maynard, a UK based lawyer with London solicitors and human rights specialists Hickman & Rose (H&R), was invited to speak at an international legal conference organised by Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF)[1] in al Ram, near Jerusalem.

However, after being questioned by Israeli officials at Heathrow airport, on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, on the evening of 24 May 2006, she was immediately detained by security officials from the Israeli Ministry of Defence.

Ms Maynard was subjected to intensive and intrusive questioning – she was unable to answer many of the questions, as to do so would have breached professional privilege (i.e. the duty of confidentiality she owes to her clients). The officials were not satisfied with her answers – and their questions revealed that they were disturbed by her involvement in obtaining an arrest warrant last September against alleged war criminal Maj. Gen. Doron Almog[2] and collecting evidence against other high ranking Israeli officials.

Ms Maynard was then denied entry to Israel and detained overnight pending deportation on a return flight to London. Ms Maynard, assisted by ASF and her colleagues in London, instructed an Israeli lawyer, Smadar Ben Nathan, to apply to the Tel-Aviv district court to prevent her deportation and obtain her release from custody so she could speak at the conference and carry out her legitimate legal work for Palestinian clients.

At approximately 7.30am local time on 25 May, Judge Avraham Tal ordered the Israeli authorities to lift the prohibition on Ms Maynard’s entry to Israel, but directed that she be admitted to the country for a limited period of time, cutting her visit short by almost three days. Effectively, however, the judicial system followed the usual pattern of facilitating the demands of the security establishment.

Under Israeli law deportation can only be justified if a person is a threat to the security of the state. Despite this, the judicial decision arbitrarily curtailed Ms Maynard’s visit and sought to prevent her from meeting Palestinian clients to provide them with up to date details about the progress of their international cases against Israeli war crimes.

Having decided that the judge’s ruling was merely a ‘recommendation’, at about 5.30pm local time on 25 May, the Israeli immigration authorities decided not to follow the recommendation. No reason was provided for this approach, other than ‘security’.[3]

As Ms Maynard had already spent almost one day in custody, had by then missed the slot allocated for her talk on 25 May and the conference was due to end at lunch time on 26 May, she decided it would be academic for her to continue her legal battle and has now returned to the UK this morning.

Access to justice is the enemy of impunity

PCHR, H&R and teams of international lawyers from various jurisdictions have for some time been preparing evidence files against suspected Israeli war criminals. The Almog case demonstrated the serious intent in achieving justice for Palestinian victims. The decision to deny Kate Maynard access to Israel is an obvious attempt to prevent this work from continuing and further cases being prepared. It is another example of Israel acting to secure impunity for alleged war crimes in the OPT. It also constitutes an astonishing attack on Kate Maynard’s right to impart legal information to professional colleagues in the region, who are fighting against impunity, and their right to receive such information.

Any notion of the rule of law requires the international community to ensure that the State of Israel respects the fact that victims and their lawyers are entitled to prepare and litigate their clients’ claims without such arbitrary interference and to discuss these matters with their professional colleagues.

Israel must not be allowed to prevent lawyers doing this work. PCHR and H&R will work even harder to try to ensure that this unjustified interference with the rights of Palestinian victims to access to justice, specifically to receive legal assistance, will not have any impact on the international pursuit, capture, remand, trial and (if found guilty) imprisonment of suspected Israeli war criminals.

Traditionally, the Israeli authorities have an extraordinary record of interference with the work of international human rights defenders. This is a further case which is in clear breach of the UN and EU guidelines on human rights defenders.[4]

PCHR and H&R call on:

- HM Government to raise this case with the Government of Israel requesting proper reasons for refusing entry to Kate Maynard, but also to secure agreement that lawyers doing legitimate legal work will not be denied access to Israel in future and, specifically, that Kate Maynard and other lawyers from H&R are granted entry to Israel in future; and

- Hina Jilani the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders to lodge a complaint with the Israeli authorities regarding this case; and

- the EU Heads of Mission in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory to fulfil their role under the EU guidelines on human rights defenders and make representations regarding the poor treatment of Ms Maynard and other international human rights defenders whose work is being interfered with on a daily basis; and

- the EU to follow the lead set by the Non-Aligned Movement of States at the UN in preventing suspected Israeli war criminals, in particular settlers, access to those countries.~

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