International, European and German lawyers issued statements in support of Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat, subjected to a political ban in Germany since 22 June, when he was prevented by Berlin police from speaking at a community event on Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century.” Barakat has filed an urgent appeal against the political ban, demanding it be lifted immediately. He was threatened with up to a year in prison if he participated in events, demonstrations or even gatherings.
The political ban imposed on Barakat comes amid other repressive German actions targeting Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organizing, such as the anti-BDS resolution passed by the Bundestag in May; the criminal prosecution of activists for interrupting a member of the Knesset speaking; the ongoing threats of funding cuts against community organizations hosting Palestine events; the closure of bank accounts of organizations supporting Palestine, including Jewish Voices for a Just Peace; the deportation of former prisoner and torture survivor Rasmea Odeh; and the forced resignation of the director of the Jewish Museum following Israeli official pressure.
Organizations and activists around the world have denounced the political ban imposed on Barakat as a severe attack on freedom of expression and fundamental human rights. Several legal organizations have joined in the call to lift the political ban, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. The IADL, founded in 1946, has consultative status as an NGO with the United Nations. It has individual and organizational members from more than 50 countries.
The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights, headquartered in Düsseldorf, has members across Europe. It joined with the Association of Democratic Lawyers in Germany (VDJ) and the International League for Human Rights to issue a statement demanding the immediate end of the political ban, which was also published in Junge Welt newspaper.
The lawyers’ organizations’ statements emphasized that the political ban on Barakat violates his human rights under the German constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), urging that it be lifted immediately.
Around the world, people of conscience are raising their voices in solidarity with Khaled Barakat and against the ongoing racist violations of Palestinian human rights both in Europe and in occupied Palestine. Please join the support campaign! Send your statements of solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org or take a solidarity photo featuring the campaign posters to post online or share with us!
Read the statement of the IADL:
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) a non-governmental organization founded in 1946 with consultative status with ECOSOC, opposes in the strongest terms the German government’s imposition of “political ban” on German resident Mr. Khaled Barakat, a Palestinian activist and writer. This ban was imposed on June 22, 2019.
IADL has been informed that the stated bases for the political ban are Mr. Barakat’s opinions regarding Palestine and his open support for Palestinian self-determination. IADL has no illusion regarding the source of this ban. It reflects a disturbing trend by the State of Israel to pressure governments such as Germany to isolate and quiet critics of Israel by equating criticism of the State of Israel or its government with anti-Semitism. IADL fundamentally rejects this equivalency and notes that many of the people who have spoken out against Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and who generally oppose Zionism are members of the Jewish community. Advocating against oppression of Palestinians or for Palestinian self-determination is neither anti-Semitic nor advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred.
IADL views this “political ban” as an impermissible and illegal restriction on the rights of all persons to freedom of opinion and expression, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which guarantees everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference; the right to freedom of expression which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. IADL notes that to be permissible restrictions placed on these rights must be justified by a finding they are “necessary” to protect national security, public ordre public health or morals. (General Comment 10 paragraph 4). The ICCPR also in Article 2 prevents discrimination on many bases including on the bases of political or other opinion, or national or social origin.
IADL is aware that Germany has ratified the ICCPR but placed reservations on its ratification which conditioned its ratification on its right to interpret ICCPR Article 19 and Article 2 consistent with Article 16 of the European Convention on Human Rights which exempts aliens from provisions of Article 10 and 14. Article 10 and 14 correspond to ICCPR Articles 19 and 2. This reservation ostensibly allows Germany to restrict the freedom of expression of aliens and to discriminate against them on the basis of their political or other opinion or national or social origin.
IADL rejects these reservations as being contrary to the purposes and objects of Articles 2 and 19 of the ICCPR, and states affirmatively that such reservations destroy the right of people not to be discriminated against on the basis of their national or social origin. The Human Rights Committee which interprets the ICCPR has also confirmed that such reservations would not permitted by Article 19(3) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. (General Comment 24 paragraph 6 of the Human Rights Committee.)
IADL further states that political bans were widely used in South Africa during the Apartheid era to stifle opposition to Apartheid. They were widely imposed and were part of the actions universally condemned by the United Nations. IADL opposed the use of such bans to restrict freedom of thought, expression and conscience by the anti-Apartheid activists. At that time South Africa was not a democracy as it prevented its African majority population from participating in any elections. The use of these political bans were desperate attempts by the South African government to stave off the day when it would have to change to a democratic state. Germany is a democratic state already. There is no political necessity for aliens to suffer restrictions on their freedoms of speech, expression or conscience.
Therefore, IADL publicly calls upon German officials to lift the political ban on Mr. Barakat.
Read the statement of the ELDH:
The journalist Khaled Barakat was forbidden to take part in an event in Berlin with the topic, “Palestine and the Arabs – American Deal of the Century from Compromise to Liquidation” under threat of imprisonment by decision of the Foreigners’ Office on 21.06.2019. He was also barred from participating in any other events with reference to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Khaled Barakat is a Canadian citizen who has been in Germany for 4 years. The refusal to extend his residence permit after 31.07.2019 was also announced in the document.
In the detailed but not very substantial statement of reasons of the German Foreigners’ Office it is alleged, among other things, that Mr. Barakat is a functionary of the PFLP. The PFLP is on the EU terror list, as it is in Israel and in the USA. In Germany it is not classified as a terrorist organization. In Great Britain it has not been listed since 2014. Neither the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution nor Berlin’s report mentions the PFLP. There is no evidence that Khlaled Barakat is an official of the PFLP, which he denies by the way.
The Foreigners’ Authority bases the prohibition of lectures on § 47 para. 1 sentence no. 1 AufenthG. Through his lectures, the Foreigners Authority alleges that the peaceful co-existence of Germans and foreigners or of different foreign groups in Germany is imperiled. It refers to the unproven assessment of the Berlin Anti-Semitism Research and Information Centre (RIAS) that anti-Semitic propaganda had been carried out at the event “STOP APARTHEID – Decolonise Palestine.” RIAS here regards the depiction of Palestinians throwing stones on a poster as a visual element “glorifying violence.” Therefore, the statement alleges peaceful coexistence between non-Jewish and Jewish citizens in Germany may be impaired. There is no evidence of this presented either. After his multiple past lectures, there were never any such conflicts. The reason for any conflict is rather the “smouldering political conflicts between Jews and Arabs/Palestinians”, as the Foreigners’ Office itself declares.
However, the Foreigners’ Office wrongly equates Jews with the Israeli government. Numerous prominent Jews in Israel, Germany and other countries are rather very critical of the policies of the the Israeli government. The Foreigners’ Office also justifies its decision by reference to a threat to public safety and order. They also mention forbidden meetings of other organizations. However, Mr. Barakat never gave lectures at any forbidden gatherings. Listing of the PFLP as a terrorist organisation in the USA, Israel and the EU is alleged to be sufficient for the Foreigners’ Office to claim that public safety and order, and Germany’s good relations with the state of Israel, are at risk due to his lectures.
This decision of the Foreigners’ Office intervenes massively against the fundamental rights of Khaled Barakat. The justified and necessary fight against anti-Semitism is not facilitated by such decisions, but in fact made more difficult. Equating criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism distracts from the danger of real anti-Semitism.
The prohibition means that his rights under Art. 5, 8 of the German constitution, Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are injured. The core of freedom of expression consists precisely in being critical of the policy of one’s own government and to the policies of other governments. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental for a democratic community.
The ELDH, the VDJ and the International League for Human Rights call on the Berlin authorities to cease these unlawful practices without delay and also to annul their decision on the extension of Mr. Barakat’s residence permit on the basis of speculation and defamation.
German original of the ELDH statement: