• Press Release

Israel/OPT: Amnesty joins legal challenge to punitive expulsion of HRW country director

Amnesty International has joined a legal case brought by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to challenge the legality of the Israeli government’s decision to revoke the work permit of its Israel and Palestine Director, the organization said today.

The Israeli authorities’ decision to deport Omar Shakir is a crushing blow to freedom of expression in the country and sends an alarming signal to human rights activists and civil society in general of the extent they are willing to go in their attempt to silence those who defend human rights
Saleh Higazi

A ruling by the Jerusalem District Court confirming the authorities’ decision to expel Omar Shakir is an unreasonable and disproportionate restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International is arguing in an amicus curia briefing submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem today. The court is scheduled to hear the case on 25 July 2019.

“The Israeli authorities’ decision to deport Omar Shakir is a crushing blow to freedom of expression in the country and sends an alarming signal to human rights activists and civil society in general of the extent they are willing to go in their attempt to silence those who defend human rights.” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“We hope that the Israeli Supreme Court will uphold the state’s obligations under international human rights law and overturn Omar Shakir’s expulsion order.”

On 7 May 2018, the Israeli Ministry of Interior revoked Omar Shakir’s work permit, citing a 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law that refuses entry to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to anyone who supports or calls for a boycott of Israel as defined under the 2011 “anti-boycott” law. The Israeli authorities ordered Omar Shakir to leave the country within 14 days

“Calling on companies to respect international law and abide by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as Human Rights Watch and Omar Shakir have been doing, is protected by the right to freedom of expression under international human rights law. The authorities’ move to penalize him for his human rights work is an act you expect only from oppressive governments”.

Human Rights Watch challenged the Ministry of Interior’s decision in the Jerusalem District Court, which froze the deportation order for the duration of the case.

Omar Shakir and Human Rights Watch’s public calls on businesses to respect international law are part of their peaceful human rights work
Saleh Higazi

However, on 16 April 2019, the Jerusalem District Court upheld the deportation order and gave Omar Shakir until 1 May 2019 to leave the country. Omar Shakir and Human Rights Watch appealed the decision to Israel’s Supreme Court and also made a request that the court issue an injunction to allow him to remain in Israel until the appeal is heard, which was accepted.

“Omar Shakir and Human Rights Watch’s public calls on businesses to respect international law are part of their peaceful human rights work.” said Saleh Higazi

The Israeli Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on Human Rights Watch’s appeal at the end of the hearing on 25 July 2019.

Background

The “anti-boycott law” of 2011, formally known as the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott, makes it a civil wrong to call for a boycott of any entity because of its affiliation to Israel or to a territory under its control, including entities operating in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law prohibits granting an entry visa to Israel (and therefore to the Occupied Palestinian Territories which are under Israeli control) to anyone who knowingly published, or operates within an organization who knowingly published, a call for a boycott as defined under the 2011 law.

Both the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott of 2011 and the 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law contravene Israel’s obligations under international human rights law.

Amnesty International does not take a view on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and has never called for or endorsed specific boycotts. It is up to individuals and organizations to determine which peaceful strategies to use in furtherance of human rights. Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of free expression that must be protected. Advocates of boycotts should be allowed to express their views freely and take forward their campaigns without harassment, threats of prosecution or criminalization, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression.