MSF Reacts to Charges Issued Against Palestinian Staff Member

Jerusalem/Paris, May 18, 2007 — On May 17, Mr. Mossaab Bashir, a member of the staff of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the Gaza Strip, was charged by an Israeli court with "contact with a foreign agent" and "conspiracy to commit a crime." Mr. Bashir was arrested on April 19, 2007 in Jerusalem after attending an MSF work meeting. The charges handed down against Mr. Bashir are in no way related to either MSF or to its activities.

The judicial proceedings against Mr. Bashir are just beginning, therefore he must be presumed innocent until a court of law declares otherwise. MSF will carefully monitor the developments of the case until a verdict is rendered.

MSF has been working in the Palestinian Territories (Gaza and the West Bank) since 1989 and has always scrupulously complied with the security rules and regulations of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concerning movements of its staff. In this regard, Mr. Bashir had obtained all required authorizations by the IDF enabling him to travel to Jerusalem and pass through military checkpoints.

In a context of extreme politicization and radicalization of the violence, MSF pays meticulous attention to maintaining the neutrality and impartiality of its humanitarian intervention.

The Palestinian Territories are a particularly violent conflict zone. Needs are increasing. The suspension of the international assistance and the blockade on Gaza make humanitarian aid even more crucial. Following the charges against Mr. Bashir, MSF is concerned about confusion generated over the role of humanitarian action. This would contribute to further reducing access to the population, and correspondingly increase the insecurity for our teams in the Palestinian Territories and the whole Israeli territory.