Israel: Amnesty joins legal challenge to expulsion of Human Rights Watch director

Omar Shakir is Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director © Human Rights Watch

‘The authorities’ move to penalise him for his human rights work is an act you expect only from oppressive governments’ - Saleh Higazi

Amnesty International has joined a legal case brought by Human Rights Watch to challenge the Israeli government’s decision to revoke the work permit of Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director, Omar Shakir.

In May last year, the Israeli Ministry of Interior revoked Shakir’s work permit, citing a 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law which refuses entry to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to anyone who supports or calls for a boycott of Israel as defined under the country’s “anti-boycott” law. 

Shakir was ordered to leave the country within 14 days, but Human Rights Watch challenged the decision in the Jerusalem District Court, which froze the deportation order for the duration of the case. 

In April this year, the court upheld the deportation order, giving Shakir until 1 May to leave the country. However, Shakir and Human Rights Watch have appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court and requested that the court issue an injunction to allow him to remain in Israel until the appeal is heard, which was accepted. 

The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on the case next Thursday (25 July), and Amnesty has submitted an “amicus curiae” briefing to the court today. Amnesty is arguing that the authorities’ decision to expel Shakir is an unreasonable and disproportionate restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and association.

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director, said: 

“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.

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

“The authorities’ move to penalise him for his human rights work is an act you expect only from oppressive governments.

“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.”

Anti-boycott law

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 in Israel 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 organisation 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 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 organisations 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 criminalisation, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression.

View latest press releases