PCHR Condemns Prevention of Medical Delegation from Traveling via Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing by Ministry of Health in Gaza.The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns the prevention of a medical delegation from traveling via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing by the Ministry of Health in Gaza . The delegation was to participate in a medical conference in Jerusalem .

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 13:00 on Wednesday, 07 December 2011, Dr. Bassam al-Badri, Director of External Medical Treatment Department, received a phone call from the office of World Health Organization (WHO) in Gaza, informing him that him and 4 members of the Higher Medical Committee of the External Medical Treatment Department, nominated by the Ministry of Health in Ramallah, were banned from traveling to Jerusalem to participate in a medical conference which would be held on 08 and 09 December 2011.

The conference is organized by the network of hospitals in East Jerusalem, in cooperation with WHO, to support and develop the hospitals of Augusta Victoria (al-Muttala’), al-Maqassed, St. John Eye, Red Crescent, Saint Joseph and Princess Basma. Dr. al-Badri pointed out that the remaining members of the delegation (9 doctors nominated by the Ministry of Health in Gaza and 5 doctors from NGOs) were not banned.

Dr. Mahmoud Dhaher, Director of WHO Office in Gaza , stated that he was surprised by the decision taken by Minister of Health in Gaza , Dr. Bassem Naim, to ban the five doctors from traveling for no apparent reasons. As a result of this decision, the participation of the whole medical delegation from the Ministry of Health in Gaza was cancelled.

PCHR has followed up developments relating to the decision with relevant security bodies and the Attorney General’s office, but in vain. It also contacted the office of the Minister of Health in Gaza to check the reasons for banning the medical delegation from traveling to Jerusalem. The reply was that the banned five doctors were not nominated by the Ministry of Health in Gaza .

However, the current decision remains illegal as neither the Ministry nor security services have the authority to ban traveling; it is an absolute authority of the judiciary.

The conference, which is organized by hospitals in Jerusalem in cooperation with WHO, aims at reviewing the level of services provided by Arab hospitals in Jerusalem to patients from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

PCHR condemns such restrictions on the freedom of movement, and:

1. Stresses that ban decided by the Ministry of Health and security services is illegal, as any ban on travel must be warranted by the judiciary according to Article 11(1, 2) of the Amended Basic Law of 2003;

2. Views such restrictions on the freedom of movement with utmost concern under the ongoing closure imposed by Israeli occupation authorities on the Gaza Strip for the past 4 years;

3. Calls for coordination between the Ministries of Health in Ramallah and Gaza, especially under the current atmosphere of reconciliation;

4. Views the conference as an opportunity to reach understandings among parties at a time in which the deterioration in medical shortages and restrictions on medical transfers lead to increased suffering of patients requiring medical treatment within or outside the Gaza Strip.