UN worries Israeli reforms will weaken judiciary

UN Israel weaken judiciary
UN Israel weaken judiciary
GENEVA: The proposed overhaul of Israel’s court system has raised concerns from the UN’s human rights chief, who fears that it will “dramatically impair” the judiciary’s ability to safeguard human rights and the rule of law.

The religious-nationalist administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing through measures in Israel’s parliament that they claim are necessary to tame activist judges who get involved in politics.

The measures, which have generated widespread demonstrations, could give the government more influence over selecting justices and restrict the Supreme Court’s capacity to overturn laws.

According to Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Breaking from decades of established practice, such a law would drastically undermine the ability of the judiciary to vindicate individual rights and to uphold the rule of law as an effective institutional check on the executive and legislative power.”

He also said that the modifications would increase political influence over the judicial appointment process. The Israeli embassy in Geneva declined to respond. Meirav Eilon Shahar, its ambassador to the UN in Geneva, claimed that Turk’s prior statement displayed prejudice.

The government of Netanyahu wants to stop ‘activist judges’ from interfering in politics.

Austria’s Turk, who took over as High Commissioner in October, urged Israel earlier this month to uphold international human rights legislation after his office counted a record-breaking 151 Palestinians killed by security forces in 2017.

Israel rejects UN call

Tuesday, after lawmakers came closer to enhancing politicians’ control over courts, PM Netanyahu blasted appeals from the UN to halt judicial reform proposals as “absurdity.”

Following remarks from UN rights chief Volker Turk, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying, “What an absurdity,” and that it would have been preferable to “condemn the crimes of human rights in Iran, Syria, or the Palestinian Authority.”

Crowd protests

After weeks of widespread opposition to the legislation that detractors regard as a threat to democracy, Israel’s parliament moved a step towards approving a contentious judiciary overhaul on Tuesday.

There is widespread “concern for the nation’s unity,” according to President Isaac Herzog, who has been attempting to mediate discussion on the contentious topic, which would increase the authority of lawmakers over the judiciary.

The president, whose authority is primarily ceremonial, stated, “This is a terrible morning.” Herzog made the statement during a seminar that Ynet hosted.

“We must make every effort to continue the conversation after this vote in order to develop a framework that will help us get through this trying time.”

Despite weeks of protests in Israel’s major cities, the vote on Tuesday was successful.

Early in the morning, lawmakers supported a crucial reform bill in the first reading by a vote of 63 to 47. Prior to its second and third readings in the Knesset, it will now return to the law committee for additional discussion.

On Monday, as opposition MPs shouted “shame” during a discussion in parliament, tens of thousands once more flooded the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.


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