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UN urges 'pause' to Israeli judicial reform plans

UN urges 'pause' to Israeli judicial reform plans
February 21, 2023 Web Desk

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations on Tuesday urged Israel to pause its judicial reform plans, saying they risked weakening human rights protections by drastically undermining the judiciary's ability to vindicate individual rights.

Israel's parliament took a step on Tuesday towards approving controversial reforms that would boost the powers of politicians over the courts, despite weeks of mass protests against legislation critics see as a threat to democracy.

UN rights chief Volker Turk said that the prosed changes, taken together, would pose serious risks to the effectiveness of the judiciary in defending the rule of law, human rights and judicial independence.

The proposed changes "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 executive and legislative power," Turk said in a statement.

"Experience in Israel, and around the world, has shown the enduring value of a judiciary that can independently hold the other branches of government to the fundamental legal standards of a society set out in its basic laws."

The legislation would give more weight to the government in the committee that selects judges, and deny courts the right to rule on actions they deem in conflict with Israel's quasi constitution.

"I am concerned that, 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," Turk said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said such groups include, among others, Arab Israelis, asylum seekers and LGBTQ people.

"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," said Turk.

"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.

"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."