Amnesty International has issued a statement of support for Palestinian Photojournalist Mustafa al-Kharouf who is facing deportation in violation of international law. al-Kharouf, who will be separated from his wife and young child if the deportation goes ahead, has been detained at Givon prison in Ramle, Israel, since January 22, 2019, after having his application for family unification rejected. His detention by occupation forces comes through a false allegation of “affiliation with Hamas”.
Mustafa al-Kharouf is a 32-year-old Palestinian photojournalist who was born to an Algerian mother and a Palestinian Jerusalemite father. He lives in occupied East Jerusalem with his wife Tamam al-Kharouf and 18-month-old daughter Asia and had moved to East Jerusalem with his family from Algeria when he was 12. Mustafa works for the Turkish Anadolu Agency and has been covering human rights violations by the Israeli forces in East Jerusalem.
Soon after the family returned to East Jerusalem they applied for family unification requests with Israeli authorities that would give them legal status to reside in the city. However, they were subjected to the “centre of life” condition that the Israeli authorities have applied in a discriminatory manner to Palestinian Jerusalemites since 1988, which requires them to prove that they maintain a “centre of life” in the city in order to safeguard their legal status. Al-Kharouf’s family had to wait six years before meeting that condition. By the time they met the condition, Mustafa al-Kharouf had turned 18, and his family was unable to submit an application for child registration or family unification on his behalf, rendering him stateless.
Since then, Mustafa al-Kharouf started a long legal battle with the Israeli Ministry of Interior Affairs trying to validate his legal status in East Jerusalem without positive results. He has a temporary Jordanian travel document, which Jordan issues for stateless Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, and a B\1 work visa that was granted to him on a humanitarian basis and was only valid from 27 October 2014 until 1 October 2015. In December 2015, Mustafa al-Kharouf was informed that the committee that grants visas on humanitarian grounds within the Ministry of Interior was considering rejecting the request for another visa extension based on secret information provided to them by the Israeli Security Agency.
“The Israeli authorities’ decision to refuse Mustafa al-Kharouf’s residency application and deport him based on unfounded accusations is cruel and unlawful. He must be released immediately and granted permanent residency in East Jerusalem so he can resume his normal life with his wife and child”Saleh Hijazi, Head of Amnesty International’s Jerusalem Office.
In June 2016, Mustafa al-Kharouf received a response that the Ministry of Interior refused to renew his B\1 work visa for ‘’security reasons.” His lawyer, Adi Lustigman, from the Israeli human rights organization Hamoked, believes the ministry’s rejections is related to his work as a photojournalist documenting human rights abuses committed by the Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem. In May 2017, Mustafa al-Kharouf’s lawyer filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals challenging the decision. After negotiations, the Ministry of Interior allowed him to submit an application for family unification and to stay at his home in East Jerusalem until a decision is made. However, the Ministry of Interior rejected his application for family unification on 23 December 2018. The decision, according to his lawyer, is based on an unsupported claim that Mustafa al-Kharouf is an activist with Hamas.
On 21 January 2019, Mustafa al-Kharouf’s lawyer appealed the decision rejecting the family unification request, but a few hours later, at approximately 1:00 am on 22 January 2019, Israeli police and immigration inspectors, acting on a Ministry of Interior Affairs order to deport Mustafa al-Kharouf, raided his home and arrested him. He has been held in Givon prison in the Naqab in southern Israel since. On 3 April, an Israeli District Court rejected Mustafa al-Kharouf’s appeal regarding the family unification request.
“Israeli authorities must adhere to their international obligations and ensure that Mustafa al-Kharouf can remain safely in his home by granting him a permanent residency status in East Jerusalem. The international community must act urgently to pressure the Israeli authorities to reverse its decision to deport him.’’Saleh Hijazi, Head of Amnesty International’s Jerusalem Office.
Israel has ordered that al-Kharouf be deported to Jordan, a country where he has no right of residence, effectively rendering the journalist stateless. This is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
After the 1967 war, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Following the annexation, Israel conducted a census and granted permanent residency status to Palestinians living in the occupied areas but only if they were present at the time of the census. Since then, Israel has revoked the residency status of at least 14,600 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to Israel’s Ministry of Interior Affairs. Amnesty contends that the deportation of al-Kharouf is yet a further example of Israel attempting to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem of Palestinians.
Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered an integral part of Occupied Palestinian Territories and therefore its Palestinian population is protected by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Israeli authorities are prohibited from forcibly transferring or deporting Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Israel’s decision to deport Mustafa al-Kharouf clearly violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the deportation of protected persons from an occupied territory. Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court “the deportation or transfer [by the Occupying Power] of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory” constitutes a war crime.
Supporters of Mustafa al-Kharouf are urged to write an appeal on his behalf to the following address.
Aryeh Makhlouf Deri
Minister of Interior Affairs
2 Kaplan Street
PO Box 6158
Jerusalem, 91061, Israel
Fax: + 972 2 670 1628
Dear Minister Aryeh Deri,
On 22 January 2019, the Israeli Ministry of Interior Affairs ordered the expulsion to Jordan of Palestinian photojournalist Mustafa al-Kharouf, after denying his request for family unification. Mustafa al-Kharouf, 32, was born in Algeria to a Palestinian father and has lived in East Jerusalem with his family since the age of 12. He is now married to Tamam al-Kharouf, a resident of East Jerusalem. Mustafa al-Kharouf has been held in detention at Givon prison, located in Ramle in central Israel, for over 70 days and risks being forcibly deported.
Mustafa al-Kharouf works as a photojournalist for Anadolu Agency and has been reporting on human rights violations committed by Israeli forces. Amnesty International fears that Mustafa al-Kharouf’s arbitrary detention and the decision to forcibly deport him are intended to stop him from carrying out his journalistic work. In any event, his deportation from East Jerusalem would violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel has been a state party since 1951. We are extremely concerned that if Mustafa al- Kharouf is expelled to Jordan, where he has no legal status, he will remain stateless and be separated from his family. As a Palestinian Jerusalemite, Mustafa al-Kharouf has a temporary Jordanian travel document that does not entitle him to Jordanian citizenship or residency rights, but at most to a short stay in Jordan.
I urge you to immediately release Mustafa al-Kharouf from Givon prison, and, in line with Israel’s obligations underthe Fourth Geneva Convention, ensure that he can remain safely in his home by granting him permanent residency status in East Jerusalem.