Tuesday, November 13, 2018

First hearing in Jerusalem court for Human Rights Watch Director’s legal challenge


By Alicia Ramos Perez - July 02, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Human rights] [permits] [Israeli law] [denied entry]

On June 27 the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Palestine and Israel Director Omar Shakir, had his first hearing in local court of Jerusalem.

On May 7, the Israeli authorities revoked Shakir’s permit and ordered him to leave the country within 14 days.
 
The claims for Shakir’s expulsion were based on alleged support to the Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.  
 
Shakir is the first person to legally challenge Israel’s use of a the new 'Entry to Israel’ law which allows expulsion of any foreign national on the allegations of supporting BDS against Israel.
 
After his challenge, Shakir was granted a temporary injunction, permitting him to stay in Israel while his case was heard.
 
Israeli authorities based their decision to expel Shakir on a dossier written by a government minister.
 
This document compiled all Shakir’s activities that have been going on for decades, almost all of them predating his role in HRW.  
 
As deputy executive director for programs at HRW Ian Levine stated, “this is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling HRW and shutting down criticisms of Israel’s rights records.”
 
During the hearing, the lawyer and defence attorney of Shakir stated that the deportation was obfuscating the fact that the government was not really after Shakir, but HRW as an organisation.
 
In one of Shakir’s tweets, he states that during Wednesday’s hearing, Israel flanked by pro-government NGO’s argued that: “my tweets highlighting HRW call on companies to stop violating rights justifies deporting me. I’ve lived in Egypt and Syria, but this is the first time my social media posts are the subject of a judicial hearing.”
 
A particular aspect of the hearing was that the government refused to communicate the Foreign Affairs Minister’s view on Shakir’s case.
 
Multiple international organisations have pledged against the deportation of Shakir.
 
Al-Haq called on the Israel Minister of Interior to “reinstate the work visa of Shakir, respect the freedom of expression and the work of respected International Human Rights Organisations.”
 
They added the other troubling aspect was “the government's assertion to indirect calls for boycott are grounds for expulsion.”
 
The Knesset gave the last approval to the 'Entry to Israel’ law on March 5.
 
This bill forbids the entry to Israel or granting visa and residency rights to foreign nationals who call for cultural, economic or academic boycotts of Israel or the illegal settlements in the West Bank.
 
As stated in the bill, the “ban will apply to any person who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the consent of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.”
 
Revoking Shakir’s work permit will send a dangerous message not only for HRW, but to other humanitarian organisations operating in Israel and Palestine.
 
As Al-Haq’s statement said, “Israel is not committed to protecting the freedom of expression, but rather to shrink the civil space in society within which human rights groups can operate.”

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