Beinisch: Int'l law must adapt to terror threats

Supreme Court president tells Princeton University court's goal is to respect human rights while maintaining security.

Beinisch princeton 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Beinisch princeton 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Supreme Court's goal is to respect human rights while maintaining security during "a permanent state of emergency," the court's president, Dorit Beinisch, said Thursday in a speech at Princeton University. Beinisch added that one of the main challenges the court faced was that international law had yet to fully adapt to modern terrorist threats. "International law has not yet developed a means to respond to the fight against these terrorist organizations," she said. "Most of the conventions are against conventional threats, and therefore we must adapt the existing humanitarian laws to this current environment." Beinisch said current legal guidelines often classify suspected members of terrorist organizations or those the IDF may consider unlawful combatants as having civilian status under international law. As such, Beinisch said her job is to ensure that basic human rights - from the length of a detention to a detainee's access to clean water or health care - are respected. She said that sometimes conflicts with the IDF's desire to hold those it suspects of plotting terrorist activities, even if it falls short of the evidence burden the court requires. Beinisch, who has served on the court since 1995 and became its first female president in September 2006, told the university audience her court often decides cases in a way with which the the government disagrees. She stressed that a 1999 ban on torture methods was strictly upheld by the courts and that the Supreme Court had pushed the IDF and the government to reconsider the parameters of their the West Bank security fence. Beinisch cited cases in which the Supreme Court ruled to decrease limits on administrative detention or ordered the government to restore electricity and water service to parts of Gaza that had been shut off during an offensive. "The right to the property and dignity of everybody must be protected by the military commanders, unless it's a security issue," Beinisch said. "These things often conflict with each other." Beinisch said that during her time as Supreme Court president, its 14 justices had dealt with almost every issue in Israeli life. "These are very unusual examples of what comes to our court in a very difficult, complex situation of war activities and terror activities that happen every day," she said. "In these difficult times that we are experiencing, we have to prevail, so we'll all be able to advance the laws of justice in times of peace."