Barak: Court reforms will harm democracy

"There's a conscious effort to weaken the court, maybe to threaten it in order to influence its decisions," say during Herzliya Conference.

aharon barak 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
aharon barak 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"There is a conscious effort to weaken the court, and maybe to threaten it in order to influence its decisions, to harm its independence and lower its horizons," former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak told the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday. "The changes to the judicial system being proposed, if they are accepted by the Knesset, will severely harm our democracy," he said. Barak railed against proposed changes to the judicial selection committee that "seek to increase the power of political forces, though the modern trend is to separate politics from the judicial system." He complained that there were "harsh and unjustified attacks on the Supreme Court," and he blasted attempts to "annul central judicial achievements, including [judicial tests of] reasonableness, proportionality, standing and justiciability" through legislation limiting the scope of judicial review. If these changes are allowed to take place, said Barak, "we may quickly become a Third-World country." He called on the Knesset to "complete the constitution. Give Israel a new constitution that strengthens the state institutions, a constitution that defends the independence of the judiciary and safeguards the status of the Supreme Court and its president," guarantees human rights, equality, dignity and the balance between the individual and society, "and which will prevent great upheavals like those that affect the judiciary today." He told the judges and justices of Israel's judiciary to "continue on your path, do justice through the law." To "the captains of the state," he said, "protect the judiciary, and don't support the various proposals to change its purpose. A tree that grew and developed for 60 years can be felled in one swing of the ax." Barak then turned to "members of Israeli society," saying, "we have in Israel a fair, honest and objective judiciary, which has protected human rights where many other states have failed, and because of which each member of society has the personal freedom offered in the most developed democracies." Barak added that he had "no personal interest. I'm not seeking any public office; I am happy in the quiet academic environment of the IDC. But my heart is worried that so great a national asset as our court is being harmed before our eyes." "Our national resilience doesn't depend only on our military power," Barak said, "but also on our democratic values."