The United Nations human rights chief on Tuesday voiced concern that a proposed overhaul of Israel’s judicial system would “drastically undermine” the ability of the judiciary to uphold human rights and the rule of law.
Israel’s parliament is pushing ahead with changes promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government which it says are needed to rein in activist judges who intervene in politics.
The proposals, which have sparked mass protests, could increase the government’s sway in choosing judges and set limits on the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down legislation.
#Israel: UN Human Rights Chief @volker_turk concerned by fundamental legislative changes being considered in Parliament, posing serious risks to effective human rights protection & judicial independence in future. Urges pause for wider debate: https://t.co/DKnxPzrOzF pic.twitter.com/F4DjFWFURM
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 21, 2023
“Breaking from decades of settled 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,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.
His statement added that the changes would create greater political influence over the judicial selection system.
Israel’s mission in Geneva declined to comment. Its ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, has said a previous statement from Turk showed prejudice.
Austria’s Turk, who became High Commissioner in October, earlier this month called on Israel to ensure respect of international rights law after his office documented a record 151 killings of Palestinians by security forces last year.