GENEVA, Switzerland — Israel’s expulsion of a French-Palestinian human rights lawyer accused of terror offenses amounts to a “war crime,” the UN human rights office claimed Monday.
Salah Hamouri, 37, arrived in France on Sunday after having been held without charge in Israel under a controversial practice that allows suspects to be detained without trial for renewable periods of up to six months. He previously served time in prison after being convicted of plotting to kill one of Israel’s most prominent rabbis.
Hamouri, who has lived in Jerusalem his entire life, had been held on suspicion of participation in terror activities due to his alleged affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, but was not charged or convicted in the latest proceedings against him.
“Deporting a protected person from occupied territory is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, constituting a war crime,” UN human rights spokesman Jeremy Laurence said in a statement, referring to East Jerusalem. Israel seized the territory from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
In condemning the expulsion, Laurence said: “We are deeply concerned by the chilling message this sends to those working on human rights” in East Jerusalem, which is sought by the Palestinians as the capital of a potential future state.
Hamouri works for the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, which was deemed by Israel to be a terror organization, together with several other NGOs, in October 2021. Addameer — along with the UN, several European nations and a number of Israeli human rights groups — have all strongly rejected the designation.
Previously, Hamouri spent seven years in prison after being convicted in a 2005 plot to kill Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
Hamouri was freed in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group, in which more than 1,000 terror convicts were released in exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel said that since then Hamouri has used his Jerusalem residency to continue “his hostile, serious and significant activity.”
Outgoing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked decided to strip Hamouri of his residency rights in October 2021.
Announcing his deportation on Sunday morning, Shaked praised it as a “tremendous achievement” coming at the end of her tenure as interior minister.
Israeli human rights group HaMoked decried the decision, saying that “deporting a Palestinian from their homeland for breach of allegiance to the State of Israel is a dangerous precedent and a gross violation of basic rights.”
The decision to revoke Hamouri’s residency underscored the fragile status of Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who hold Israeli residency rights, but are largely not citizens.
Residency allows them freedom of movement, the ability to work and access to Israeli social services, but they are not allowed to vote in national elections. Residency rights can be stripped if a Palestinian is found to live outside the city for an extended period or in certain security cases.
Palestinians can apply for citizenship. But few do, not wanting to be seen as accepting what they see as an occupation. Those who do apply face a lengthy and bureaucratic process where few succeed in securing citizenship.
Last year, Hamouri was among six human rights activists whose cell phones were found by independent security researchers to have been infected with spyware made by the Israeli company NSO Group.
It was not known who placed the spyware on the phones. Israel says that there is no connection between the terror designation of Addameer and the five other Palestinian rights groups and any alleged use of NSO spyware. Israel has provided little evidence publicly to support the terrorism designation, which Palestinian groups say is meant to muzzle them and dry up their sources of funding.