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Israel: IBAHRI condemns new government plan to curb Supreme Court powers

Wednesday 18 January 2023

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the decision by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to introduce legislation which will enable the Israeli Parliament to overthrow decisions of the country’s Supreme Court, severely undermining democratic institutions by removing checks and balances over the government.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘The IBAHRI strongly objects to these plans, which constitute an affront to the rule of law and its foundational principle that the judiciary is independent of the government and decisions from the courts are respected by Parliament. This is a troubling departure from democratic norms, and we urge Mr Netanyahu and his cabinet to reverse this decision.’

Under plans announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin in early January 2023, a simple majority in the Knesset (the legislative branch of the Israeli government) would have the sweeping power to annul Supreme Court decisions that strike down legislation found to be unconstitutional and give the government and its allies control over the appointment of judges. Aharon Barak, former President of the Supreme Court of Israel from 1995 to 2006 and a highly revered jurist, paralleled the plans to the attacks on judicial independence carried out by authoritarian governments in Hungary, Poland and Turkey, and warned that the proposed changes were ‘fertiliser that will lead to the growth of tyranny of the majority’.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE, stated: ‘This plan crosses the democratic Rubicon and must not be allowed to stand. These proposals not only challenge the authority of Israel’s courts, but the very bedrock of the country’s democratic system and its constitutional commitment to the rule of law.’

Over 80,000 Israeli protesters have demonstrated against the proposed changes, with critics of the government’s plan arguing that the reforms would cripple judicial independence, foster corruption, set back Palestinian rights, deprive the country’s court system of credibility, and make it easier for the government to legislate in favour of Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  1. Related material:
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  3. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:​​​​​​
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    ​​​​​​​The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
  5. Find the IBA (@IBAnews) on social media here: