Israel's Supreme Court Delays Hearing on Deportation of Human Rights Watch Director

Hearing on Shakir's deportation for alleged support for BDS delayed until September to give Israel time to respond to Amnesty and ex-Israeli envoys' joining the appeal

Omar Shakir at the Jerusalem District Court, June 27, 2018.
Emil Salman

At the last minute, the High Court of Justice delayed the hearing on the appeal against the deportation of Human Rights Watch director for Israel and the West Bank Omar Shakir.

The hearing was meant to take place on Thursday and will be delayed at least until September. It is being postponed in order to grant the state time to prepare after Amnesty International and a group of former Israeli diplomats have joined the appeal as friends of the court.

Right-wing organizations Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, NGO Monitor and the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel had already joined the demand to deport Shakir by the district court. 

Supreme Court Justices Neal Hendel, Noam Sohlberg and Yael Willner were supposed to rule on Thursday regarding Shakir’s appeal of the Jerusalem District Court’s decision to uphold the state’s revocation of his work and residence visa based on the claim that he had in the past expressed support for the BDS movement. Shakir is U.S. citizen.

>> Read more: UN experts urge Israel to halt deportation of Human Rights Watch director ■ Expulsion of human rights watch director would be big show of Israeli hypocrisy | Opinion 

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said "The Israeli government should recognize that the world views its effort to deport Human Rights Watch’s researcher as an attempt to shut down human rights advocacy."

"The Israeli government may not like people pointing out the human rights violations inherent in its settlement enterprise, but that is legitimate speech that the government has no business punishing. The real problem here is Israeli legislation that empowers the government to throw people out for peaceful advocacy," Roth, currently visiting Israel, added.

"Human Rights Watch is grateful for the outpouring of local and international support for our efforts to challenge the deportation of our country director," he said. "This support reflects an understanding that this effort is an attack on the broader human rights movement. We will continue to fight not only to allow Omar to continue doing his job from Jerusalem, but to expose human rights abuses by all parties."

Amnesty International said the decision was an "indication that the court considers it important to receive information on international human rights law and standards relevant to this case," adding it "hopes the court will uphold Israel’s obligations under international law and overturn the expulsion order."

On Tuesday, HRW's Roth told Haaretz that if Israel would expel Shakir, it would “join the likes of North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, and Iran, which also exclude our representatives.”

“This is a campaign by the Israeli government not only to shut down human rights activity, including by our Israeli partners, but also to deprive Israelis of information about what is happening around them," said Roth, who came to Israel for the scheduled Supreme Court hearing.

Human Rights Watch is one of the oldest and largest human rights organization in the world. Every year its investigators publish more than 100 reports on human rights conditions in some 90 countries. Human Rights Watch says it receives no government funding so as to maintain its independence in the various countries in which it works. Before his current position, Shakir, a graduate of Stanford University Law School, represented detainees in Guantanamo prison and also investigated human rights violations in Egypt.

Human Rights Watch notes that the authorities in Israel and its agencies have themselves quoted Shakir’s findings regarding human rights violations by Hamas in the territories. That, the organization said, proves Israel’s hypocritical attitude toward Shakir’s work.