Israel: deportation of Omar Shakir must be halted and the work of human rights defenders protected

Today, the ICJ called on the Israeli Government to reverse its decision to deport Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel and Palestine Director, and ensure that he, HRW, and other human rights defenders are able to carry out their human rights work without intimidation.

The ICJ fears that the decision will have a chilling effect on human rights defenders in the country, who the Israeli authorities are bound to protect and not intimidate or persecute.

The deportation decision is based on a 2017 amendment to the “Entry into Israel Law”, which allows authorities to deny foreigners a permit for entry to and residence in Israel “if he or she, or the organization or the body for which he or she operates, has knowingly published a public call to engage in a boycott against the State of Israel or has made a commitment to participate in such a boycott.”

An appeal against the deportation decision was rejected by the Jerusalem District Court in April 2019, and by Israel’s Supreme Court today.

Israel’s Supreme Court seems to have accepted the Government’s claim that Shakir’s work at HRW, which entailed calling on businesses to cease operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as required by international law, constitutes a call for the boycott of Israel.

The ICJ noted that the move to deport Omar Shakir constitutes an unjustifiable infringement on his right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a State party to the Covenant, Israel has an obligation to respect and protect this right.

The Human Rights Committee already expressed its concern with regard to Israel’s anti-boycott legislation and called on the Israeli authorities to “ensure that individuals fully enjoy their rights to freedom of expression and association and that any restrictions on the exercise of such rights comply with the strict requirements of article 19.”

The deportation would also contravene the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which affirms the duty of States to promote and facilitate the work of human rights defenders, while scrupulously protecting their fundamental freedoms.

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