First hearing for HRW director deportation case to take place Wednesday 

PNN/ Jerusalem/

The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, will hear the first legal challenge to Israel’s use of a new law to expel a foreign national on allegations of supporting boycotts of Israel.

The suit, brought by Human Rights Watch, seeks to reverse Israel’s decision to revoke the work permit for Omar Shakir, the organization’s Israel and Palestine director. He was ordered on May 7 to leave the country within 14 days, but the court issued an injunction suspending the deportation until the end of legal proceedings.

The hearing will be the first in which an Israeli court will consider a legal challenge to the use of the 2017 amendment to the Law of Entry that allows the Interior Ministry to deny entry into Israel for anyone who publicly calls for boycotting Israel. Human Rights Watch contends that the government went beyond the law by ordering the deportation of someone already in the country with valid status.

The ministry’s implementation criteria allow authorities to target people whose support for boycotts is “continuous” and “active.” But Human Rights Watch contends in its suit that the ministry has acknowledged having “no information” about calls for boycotts by Human Rights Watch or by Shakir as its representative. In its revocation decision, the interior ministry cited only statements made by Shakir before he joined Human Rights Watch.

In a 77-page response filed on June 21, the government appeared to change its position, arguing that Shakir’s work for Human Rights Watch included calls to boycott Israel, a claim Human Rights Watch denies. The Israeli government included in its response an annotated list of 20 organizations whose representatives it bans from entering Israel, allegedly because they support boycotts. Human Rights Watch is not listed. While the names of those groups were published in January, this appears to be the first time the government has released the “research” it has conducted on those organizations as the basis for denying entry to their representatives.

The hearing, which is open to the media, is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the courtroom on Salah Eddin Street in East Jerusalem.

The full lawsuit can be found here, an unofficial English translation of excerpts here, and the government’s response here. The Interior Ministry’s decision can be viewed here and the English translation here. For additional information and documents related to the deportation, please visit here.