On 16 April 2019, an Israeli court upheld an order to cancel the work visa of Mr. Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for Israel and Palestine, and deport him. The court based its decision on an Israeli law from 2017 that bars entry to Israel of people who advocate for so-called boycotts of Israel or Israeli settlements. The court found that Mr. Shakir promoted such boycotts by sharing HRW’s research and reporting that calls on businesses to refrain from economic activities in the unlawful Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. HRW has announced its intention to appeal the court ruling before the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights denounces the court’s decision, which reflects a serious escalation in Israel’s legislative and judicial harassment of human rights defenders who use peaceful means, such as authentic research and advocacy, to promote respect for human rights. This decision also reflects a serious development regarding the differentiation between Israel and Israeli unlawful settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory in clear defiance of international law. The news of the court’s decision is contextualized by the overall increasing pressure on independent human rights defenders working in Israel and Palestine and the continued entrenchment of the unlawful settlement and annexation policies.
Mr Issam Younis, director of Al Mezan, said that, “Al Mezan expresses solidarity with HRW and Mr. Shakir, and calls on the international community to take effective action to protect human rights defenders and ensure their safety and their ability to conduct their peaceful work, including Mr. Shakir.”