The UN human rights chief on Tuesday called for taking a measured approach to a package of new laws the Government of Israel is currently considering.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk raised a range of concerns that several sets of proposed legislative changes that Israel’s parliament is considering would pose serious risks to the effectiveness of the judiciary to defend the rule of law, human rights, and judicial independence.
Human rights at risk
“If passed, these changes risk weakening human rights protections for all, but especially the most vulnerable communities and groups less able to vindicate their rights through representation in the executive and legislative branches of Government,” he said.
The proposals in their current form would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to subject legislation to judicial review and would require either a super majority of judges, or even unanimity, for the top court to strike down legislation, he cautioned.
News reports said tens of thousands of people have, in the past weeks, attended demonstrations against the proposed changes, including in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem.
Wider debate needed
“Given the degree of public and political concern, I call on the Government of Israel to pause the proposed legislative changes and open them up for wider debate and reflection,” he said. “Such issues at the heart of rule of law deserve the fullest consideration in order to ensure that any changes promote, rather than diminish, the ability of the judiciary and other branches of Government to protect the rights of all people in Israel.”
Changes going to the heart of a country’s long-standing constitutional structure, and which affect well-established institutional safeguards, should only be undertaken following extensive consultation and with broad political and public consensus, he said.