GENEVA (25 April 2019) – UN human rights experts have expressed grave concern at the revocation of the work permit for Mr. Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, urging Israel to reverse a deportation order and to allow him to carry on with his human rights work.
“This ruling threatens advocacy, research, and free expression for all and reflects a troubling resistance to open debate,” the UN experts said. “It is a setback for the rights of human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“The grounds for revoking Mr. Shakir’s work permit appear to be tied directly to his human rights advocacy, and have nothing to do with any assertion of illegal conduct.”
On 16 April, an Israeli court upheld a deportation order against Mr. Shakir. Human Rights Watch will appeal the ruling of the District Court to the Israeli Supreme Court. The UN experts will continue to follow the case closely.
Israel had revoked Mr. Shakir’s work permit on the grounds that he had supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in the past. The UN experts note that Human Rights Watch has stated that neither the organisation nor Mr. Shakir promotes the boycott of Israel. Human Rights Watch works to discourage economic support for Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
The UN experts do not take a position on BDS. However, they point out that expressing support for, or opposition to, BDS, is fully guaranteed by the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association.
“The ability of human rights organisations and defenders to actively engage in civil society work to defend and advance the principles guaranteed in the International Bill of Human Rights is a litmus test for measuring the respect for democratic liberties in any society,” they said. “Stifling these liberties undermines any government’s claim to respect fundamental freedoms and values.
“We urge Israel to reverse the order, to allow Mr. Shakir and Human Rights Watch to continue unimpeded with human rights advocacy, and to fully respect its human rights obligations in its relationships with Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations.”
Note: Read Michael Lynk’s March 2017 report on the challenges faced by human rights defenders in the OPT.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Michael Lynk (Canada), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression.