US Bars South African Democracy Scholar: ADC, ACLU File Suit Challenging Exclusion

Contact: Caline Jarudi | 617-262-8902 |
Washington, DC | September 25, 2007 | | Professor Adam Habib, a South African national who is a prominent human rights activist and world renowned scholar of democracy, governance, and social movements, is being barred from entry into the US without explanation. Habib’s numerous attempts to secure an explanation and another US visa, and attempts on his behalf by the South African Foreign Affairs Department, the South African Foreign Minister and the South African Ambassador the US, to rectify the situation have failed. Habib continues to be invited by numerous US organizations to speak, including the Massachusetts chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), yet, Habib is unable to attend.
In an attempt to rectify the situation, ADC has joined a lawsuit filed today in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of organizations who have invited Professor Habib to speak in the near future, including ADC, American Sociological Association (ASA), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights (BCPR). The lawsuit, which names Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as defendants, seeks the immediate processing of Habib’s pending visa application and a declaration that his exclusion without explanation since
October 2006 violates the First Amendment rights of US organizations, citizens,
and residents.
Caline Jarudi, Executive Director for the Massachusetts Chapter of ADC, said, “ADC is deeply concerned by the pattern of denying visas to those who are critical of US policies. This reminds us of similar incidents, like the case of Tariq Ramadan, another leading scholar barred from the US. We need to remember the values of freedom of expression and of speech for which our country stands and how these cases are negatively impacting dialogue in the US and the image of our nation overseas.”
Until October 2006, Habib frequently visited the US to study, lecture, attend board meetings, conferences and the like. He also lived in New York City for three years while working to obtain his Ph.D. Habib regularly speaks out against injustice both in South Africa and elsewhere, his vocal criticism of apartheid landed him in jail for two weeks in June 1986 under state of emergency legislation imposed by the apartheid regime. It should be noted that Professor Habib is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Innovation, and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg and since 2002 has been named one of the 300 most influential opinion makers in South Africa by the Financial Mail, one of South Africa’s major newspapers. He has repeatedly condemned terrorism, but urged governments to respond to the threat of terrorism with policies that are consistent with human rights and the rule of law. He has also been critical of the war in Iraq, the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the US government practice of rendition (sending detainees to countries known to torture suspects).
However, on October 21, 2006, he arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport to commence a week of meetings with the World Bank; National Institutes of Health; the National Science Foundation; the United Nations Democracy Fund; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only to be refused entry to the US. His visa was also revoked by Customs and Border Protection without explanation. He was detained for seven hours and interrogated about his political views, until armed guards escorted him back to the plane and was deported back to South Africa. The State Department later revoked the visas of Habib’s wife and two small children also without explanation.

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