Israel’s unlawful deportation of French-Palestinian human rights defender Salah Hammouri is a war crime, made possible by a network of laws and policies designed to maintain apartheid over Palestinians, Amnesty International said today.
Israeli authorities deported Salah Hammouri, a lawyer and field researcher who works for Addameer, a legal aid and prisoners’ rights NGO, to France on 18 December following nine months in administrative detention without charge or trial. His deportation, and the revocation of his East Jerusalem residency status, are based on a 2018 amendment to the Entry into Israel Law, which gives the Minister of the Interior broad discretionary powers to revoke the status of Jerusalem permanent residents (the legal status held only by Palestinian Jerusalemites) considered to have “breached allegiance” to the State of Israel. This violates international law as allegiance to the occupying power is not required from an occupied population.
“The deportation of Salah Hammouri demonstrates the Israeli authorities’ utter disdain for international law, and illustrates the discriminatory laws and policies which form the heart of the apartheid system. Salah Hammouri’s plight over the past year is one that no Jewish Israeli will ever be subjected to: he was deported and stripped of his residency status under a law which was tailor-made to enable the expulsion of Palestinians,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“In an attempt to conceal this appalling reality, Israeli authorities are peddling a misleading narrative that Salah Hammouri was deported because he committed a crime. It bears repeating: deporting Salah – who did not face a single charge – was simply the final act in the campaign by Israeli authorities to punish him for his human rights work, and, sends a chilling message on the sinister intent of the Israeli authorities to reduce the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem.”
The French Foreign Ministry has condemned the deportation. In a statement, it said it would be taking “full action” to ensure that Salah Hammouri’s “rights are respected, that he benefits from all legal remedies and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born, resides and wishes to live.” It is currently unclear what this action by French authorities will entail.
Discrimination baked into law
In occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinians are granted a fragile residency status which is “permanent” in name only. The Israeli Minister of the Interior has the discretion to revoke it at any time on a number of discriminatory grounds.
A 2018 amendment to the Entry into Israel Law allows for permanent residency status to be revoked “if it has been proven to the Minister’s satisfaction that the status holder performed a deed which involves breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.” The amendment defined such a breach to include committing an act of terror as defined in the Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016, or an act of treason or aggravated espionage under the Penal Code of 1977.
The amendment is one of a host of Israeli laws and policies around Jerusalem residency rights which are intended and used exclusively to target Palestinians – permanent residency is a status held only by Palestinian Jerusalemites.
Salah Hammouri’s deportation demonstrates how Israeli authorities use discriminatory laws around citizenship and residency to minimize the Palestinian presence in key areas under their control. As Amnesty International set out in its February 2022 report, Israeli legislation and policymaking have long been guided by demographic considerations. Successive Israeli governments have publicly stated their intention to minimize Palestinians’ access to and control of land across all territories under Israel’s control.
War crimes demand action
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states clearly that it is prohibited for an occupying power to deport protected persons from the occupied territory or forcibly transfer them within such territory regardless of their motives. The same article prohibits the occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into an occupied territory – which Israel does systematically and constantly through its illegal settlement policy. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which France and Palestine are states parties includes these violations as war crimes.
“Aspects of Salah Hammouri’s experience will be familiar to all Palestinians who live under Israeli control – whether it’s harassment, family separation, or the trauma of being forced from their homes. Salah Hammouri’s case is a reminder that Israel’s justice system is purpose-built to oppress and dominate Palestinians,” said Amnesty’s Diana Eltahawy.
“Salah Hammouri’s high profile put him at particular risk of being targeted, and his deportation is also meant to discourage the work of other Palestinian human rights defenders. The spotlight on Salah Hammouri’s case must lead to concrete action by the international community to hold Israeli authorities accountable for their treatment of all Palestinians. Failure to do this will give Israel a green light for further violations.
“This unlawful deportation, which is a war crime, is under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Likewise, all those suspected of criminal responsibility for planning, executing, aiding or otherwise contributing to the commission or attempted commission of war crimes could also be tried before national courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction or any other extraterritorial basis.”
In October 2021, Israeli authorities issued a military order designating six Palestinian civil society organisations, including Addameer where Salah Hammouri works, as “terrorist” entities. In August 2022, Israeli forces raided and closed the offices of Addameer.
At the time, Salah Hammouri was in administrative detention, held without charge or trial. He was detained on 7 March and remained in Israeli custody until his deportation. As of 30 November 2022, Israeli authorities were holding 835 individuals in administrative detention, all but two of whom were Palestinian.