Gaza witness Ghassan Abu Sitta prevented from entering France

British-Palestinian doctor who recounted alleged war crimes in Gaza said Germany has banned him from entering the EU's Schengen area

Ghassan Abu Sitta addresses a pro-Palestine demonstration at University College London on Friday May 3. as a pro-Palestinian camp has been set up on the campus.  AFP
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A British-Palestinian doctor who was to speak to the French government about the medical crisis in Gaza said he was denied entry into France, in what he described as the European Union's attempt to “silence the witnesses” to the war.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a London-based reconstructive surgeon, was in Gaza in the early weeks of the war. Upon his return in November, he gave witness testimonies to a UK war crimes unit and International Criminal Court investigators.

He was scheduled to speak to the French Senate, but on Saturday revealed he had been prevented from entering France owing to a one-year ban on entering the EU's Schengen Area placed by German authorities.

“I am at Charles De Gaulle airport. They are preventing me from entering France. I am supposed to speak at the French Senate today. They say the Germans put a one-year ban on my entry to Europe,” he wrote on X.

“Fortress Europe silencing the witnesses to the genocide while Israel kills them in prison,” he added.

A French police source confirmed to AFP that France could not admit the doctor because of a German-issued ban on his entry into the visa-free Schengen zone of which both countries are members.

In March, Dr Abu Sitta said he had been detained at a Berlin airport and “forcibly prevented” from entering Germany, where he was scheduled to speak at a three-day event on Palestine.

Berlin police said they had shut down the event because of a risk of anti-Semitism and glorification of violence, with further bans handed out to guests including former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Dr Abu Sitta, a Harley street surgeon specialising in reconstructive surgery, became a prominent voice on alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza after posting daily social media updates of what he witnessed in hospitals there in the early weeks of the war.

Upon his return, he was elected rector of the University of Glasgow by students in March.

He was among the first speakers to address a student encampment in solidarity with Gaza at University College London on Friday, the first encampment to be set up in London.

The university had closed its doors to the public for over a week, as student encampments for Gaza were gaining prominence in US campuses.

A small group of tents and lounge chairs could be seen from the gates, with representatives and activists from the encampment regularly coming out to address the public and media.

Initially speaking from outside the campus gates, Dr Abu Sitta told students and the public gathered outside that the increased security around the campus made the institution “complicit” in Israel’s alleged war crimes.

“It’s an attempt to hide the evidence. In any crime, those complicit in a crime, their job is to hide the evidence,” he said.

“Whether what the German government did by deporting me and preventing me from giving evidence in Berlin, or these institutions preventing the public coming in and hearing first hand account of what is happening,” he added.

The encampment is among the first to be set up on UK campuses, although more are expected in the coming week. Dr Abu Sitta was later allowed on to the campus to address the students directly.

Updated: May 05, 2024, 4:06 AM