Prisoner's Society condemns Israel's deportation of Human Rights Watch official


Interior Minister Arieh Deri charged Shakir with being a "boycott activist" and said he "will act to expel people like this from the country" with all means at his disposal.

Israel's current government - a coalition of right-wing and far-right nationalist parties - has been accused of putting pressure on both global and local rights organisations. "Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services' playbook".

"This is the first time since Human Rights Watch began monitoring Israel and the Occupied Territories 30 years ago that Israel has ordered one of its staff out of the country", Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

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According to the newspaper, the decision was taken after Omar Shakir was accused of supporting the boycott of Israel.

A prominent human rights group accused Israel on Wednesday of attempting to "shut down criticism" of its rights record after its local director was ordered to leave the country within 14 days.

In the book, though not cited in the Israeli government's dossier, Shakir describes his commitment to human rights in a manner entirely consistent with his future work with Human Rights Watch.

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Tamara Nasser reported for Electronic Intifada that "Israel's strategic affairs ministry said the decision was based on Shakir's support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, but Shakir said the 'real aim is to muzzle dissent'". It included a recommendation, endorsed by the strategic affairs and public diplomacy minister, Gilad Erdan, that "Shakir should be stripped of his work visa and denied re-entry into the country".

Human Rights Watch stands fully behind Shakir and has retained counsel to challenge the decision before an Israeli court. It later granted him a one-year work visa.

"Neither closing the borders to human rights groups and activists nor other Israeli measures against organizations critical of the occupation will deter us, or them, from reporting human rights violations in areas under Israeli control", it said. An investigative report by Ben Birnbaum-whose work on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would later receive the National Press Club's Award for Diplomatic Correspondence-found that multiple members of HRW's own governing bodies agreed with Bernstein, including Judge Richard Goldstone, no stranger to criticism of Israel.

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