PM speaks out against bills limiting High Court

C'tee set to debate bill limiting NGOs who file petitions against gov't authority decisions; Meridor threatens to quit if bill passed.

November 27, 2011 12:13
3 minute read.
PM Netanyahu at cabinet meeting

PM Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday again spoke out against bills that would limit the power of the High Court of Justice.

Netanyahu was referring to a bill to limit so-called "public petitioners" - organizations and NGOs who file High Court of Justice petitions against decisions made by government authorities. The bill, initiated by MK Danny Danon (Likud) seeks to impose regulations to define which organizations may file High Court petitions.

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Meridor threatens to quit if High Court harmed

"The courts in Israel are one of the cornerstones of democracy," Netanyahu explained.

The prime minister also rejected the notion that High Court is a "rotten" institution and said that the courts are important and vital for healthy democratic life. "We will safeguard the courts and we will not allow them to be harmed," he stressed.

The Prime Minister’s Office released statements on Saturday night noting that Netanyahu would oppose Danon’s bill and any legislation that could harm the court.

Netanyahu’s office said he opposed the bill that would have required hearings for High Court candidates, despite impressions that he supported it, since he did not speak about it during the recent shiva mourning period for his father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation was set to debate the bill on Sunday.
However, Attorney Dan Yakir, legal adviser for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) slammed the bill as "part of the continued delegitimization campaign against human rights organizations."

"The purpose of this bill is to damage the powers and position of the court," Yakir said, adding that the bill was "legally unnecessary".

"Over the years, the High Court of Justice has developed extensive case law on locus standi [the ability of a petitioner to demonstrate their sufficient connection to and harm from a law they are challenging in court], so it has the tools to deal with inappropriate petitions," Yakir said.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, has several functions, including exercising judicial review over the various branches of government, and is empowered by the Basic Law: The Judiciary to "grant relief in the interests of justice." The High Court is a court of first instance for petitions against the legality of decisions made by state authorities, including local authorities, and can also rule on petitions that call into question the constitutionality of laws made by Knesset.

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor vowed on Saturday night that he would quit his cabinet post if bills were passed into law that would limit the power of the High Court of Justice.

Speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program, Meridor singled out Danon’s bill, as well as a bill that would require candidates to serve on the High Court to face hearings in the Knesset Law Committee.

“One of the reasons I returned to politics was to stop the attacks on the High Court of Justice that started in the last [Knesset] term,” Meridor said.

“There has been a wave of attacks aimed at making Israel different – less liberal and more nationalist. I think we’re fighting for the spirit of our country, for its existence, our freedom, our liberty, freedom of expression, freedom to protest, and for human dignity.”

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