Palestinian journalist must be allowed to call Jerusalem ‘home’, say UN experts

GENEVA July 31, 2019 – Two UN human rights experts have called on Israel to halt its efforts to deport the Palestinian photojournalist Mustafa Al-Nadir Iyad Al-Kharouf, and to regularize his status in Jerusalem.

During the night between 21 and 22 July, the Israeli authorities attempted to deport Mr. Al-Kharouf to Jordan, a country where he does not have residency rights. Jordan did not accept the deportation, and Mr. Al-Kharouf was returned to Israel.

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“The effort by Israeli authorities to deport Mr. Al-Kharouf to Jordan, where he has never lived and does not have any legal residency rights, raises serious concerns under both international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” said Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits forcible transfer and deportation of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of any other country.  “Forcible transfer is considered a grave breach of the Geneva Convention, and is defined as a war crime and a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute,” he said.

Mr. Al-Kharouf has previously been questioned about the nature of his work as a photojournalist. His application for family unification, which would allow him to continue to live in East Jerusalem with his wife and child, was denied on the basis of secret evidence in December 2018. The Israeli authorities arrested him in January, alleging that he has been illegally residing in Israel. Since his arrest, he has been imprisoned, without charges, in Givon Prison, within Israel.

He was born in Algeria to a Palestinian father and an Algerian mother, and he has lived in East Jerusalem since the age of 12. His family’s attempts over the years to regularize his status were unsuccessful due to the bureaucratic and legal obstacles related to the legal status of Palestinian Jerusalemites. In 2014 he was granted a visa on humanitarian grounds which was not renewed in 2015 for unspecified and undisclosed “security considerations”.

“The detention and deportation of Mr. Al-Kharouf directly interfere with Al-Kharouf’s legitimate exercise of rights to freedom of opinion and expression as a photojournalist,” said David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Both rapporteurs urged the Government of Israel not to deprive Mr. Al-Kharouf of his liberty arbitrarily, and to ensure that his rights to freedom of opinion and expression were protected.

Palestinians living in East Jerusalem face serious challenges to their residency in the city, with family unification and other types of permits becoming increasingly precarious. “The precedent which could be set by this case, should we see a Palestinian deported to a country where he has no ties and no legal status, on the basis of secret evidence, is highly problematic. We take this opportunity to remind the Government of Israel of its solemn obligations under international law,” the experts said.

Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. He also worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem. Mr David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel