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Denial of Visa to Human Rights Lawyer Raji Sourani

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 4, 2006

National Lawyers Guild and National Conference of Black Lawyers Condemn Denial of Visa to Visit the United States to Human Rights Lawyer Raji Sourani

New York. The National Lawyers Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers, as the U.S. affiliates of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, are appalled at the denial of a visa to visit the United States to Raji Sourani. Mr. Sourani, as the leader of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and as a lawyer, is an important and powerful force defending the human rights of Palestinians in the territories illegally occupied by the State of Israel.

It is particularly inexcusable that Mr. Sourani was denied a visa because, in addition to meeting with social organizations and institutions, he was scheduled, between March 24 and March 30, to consult with senior State Department officials. He was, however, required by the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to obtain an Israeli police certificate before getting his visa. Since the occupation of Palestinian territory is illegal, and has been deemed such by the United Nations, this requirement is similarly illegal and insulting.

On the heels of the U.S. refusal to turn over to the Palestinian Authority tax money due it following the Hamas victory in the recent free, fair and democratic elections, the prerequisite placed upon Mr. Sourani for him to secure a visa, makes clear that the United States government has no interest in seeking even a modicum of justice for Palestinians. It cannot pretend to be a “fair broker” and, until its policy is changed radically, cannot hope to play a positive role in resolving the conflict there. Indeed, it has essentially chosen not even to meet with Mr. Sourani, a powerful and important voice in defense of human rights of all residents of the Occupied Territories. One can only conclude from these actions that the United States wishes for the strife and hostility to continue in the Middle East.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) is an association of lawyers, scholars, judges, legal workers, law students and legal activists. Its mission is to serve as the legal arm of the movement for Black Liberation, to protect human rights, to achieve self-determination of Africa and African Communities in the Diaspora and to work in coalition to assist in ending oppression of all peoples. NCBL is a bar association but its program concerns matters of critical concern to the broader Black community.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is a progressive bar association of lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters. The Guild has a long history of supporting legal and political movements in this country and internationally. It has sponsored several fact-finding delegations to the Middle East and has issued numerous reports on human rights violations there, including The Al Aqsa Intifada and Israel's Apartheid: The U.S. Military and Economic Role in the Violation of Palestinian Human Rights, January 2001, available at the Guild’s website: www.nlg.org

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