Supreme Court rejects appeal against deportation of HRW director
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Supreme Court rejects appeal against deportation of HRW director

Justices won’t re-examine ruling upholding a government decision to expel Omar Shakir over his alleged support for the Israel boycott movement; he will leave country in 6 days

Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request by Human Rights Watch to re-examine a government decision to deport its local director over his alleged support for the Israel boycott movement.

“Chief Justice of Israeli Supreme Court denies injunction that would allow me to stay while she considers our request to rehear @hrw’s challenge to my deportation by full Court, given its significant ramifications. I will be leaving in 6 days,” tweeted Omar Shakir.

A previous court ruling earlier in the month gave him until November 25 to leave the country.

In that hearing, a standard three-justice panel upheld an Interior Ministry decision not to renew Shakir’s work visa and ordered him to leave the country, saying his advocacy against Israel’s settlements in the West Bank amounted to support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement.

An Israeli law from 2017 bars entry to those who publicly support a boycott of Israel or its West Bank settlements. Shakir’s case has been followed closely internationally as a litmus test for how Israel would enforce the controversial legislation.

HRW then requested another hearing from an expanded panel of justices, saying the Supreme Court  needed to weigh in on the language of the 2017 law to clarify if it included calls to boycott that stemmed from human rights abuses.

The request said that expelling boycott activists like Shakir “is an earthquake for everything that relates to the ability of human rights organizations and advocates to do their work in Israel and the occupied territories in connection to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

The organization warned of “dramatic consequences” for Israeli diplomatic efforts, human rights groups operating in the country, and political freedom.

Tuesday’s ruling came after a lengthy legal saga in which Shakir challenged the decision to expel him, with a lower court, and later the Supreme Court, siding with the state. Shakir was allowed to remain in Israel for the duration of the proceedings.

The justice who wrote the November 5 decision appeared to play down its potential future impact on other rights groups and activists.

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

“There is nothing in the decision to reflect upon other human rights organizations and activists,” Justice Neal Hendel wrote. His ruling primarily dealt with the legality of the decision to expel Shakir rather than the 2017 boycott law. The court gave Shakir 20 days to leave the country and ordered him to pay the legal fees associated with the case.

HRW says neither it nor Shakir have called for an outright boycott of Israel. The organization said that Shakir, who took up the director position in 2016, was being targeted because of the rights group’s opposition to Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, as well as the group’s calls for companies to stop working with the settlements.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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