Israel: IBAHRI welcomes Supreme Court decision

Thursday 11 January 2024

People hold a banner during a protest against Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new right-wing coalition and its proposed judicial reforms to reduce powers of the Supreme Court in Tel Aviv, Israel February 11, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) supports the Supreme Court of Israel’s ruling that nullified an Israeli government judicial reform to limit the Court’s oversight. The law was introduced in 2023 as part of a broader judicial overhaul by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and allies.

In its first sitting of the year on 1 January 2024, the 15-member Israeli Supreme Court ruled, by a slim majority of 8 to 7, to nullify the law that was introduced to curtail the Court’s own powers to reject government decisions deemed to be ‘extremely unreasonable’. The Supreme Court added that the law constitutes ‘severe and unprecedented harm to the core character of the state of Israel as a democratic country’.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘The IBAHRI endorses the decision of the Supreme Court of Israel, which overturned the law passed last July that severely undermined democratic institutions by removing checks and balances over the government. The rule of law can only be upheld if the independence of judiciary is assured. This decision demonstrates that the highest court of the country is ready to return to the democratic norms.’

The Israeli government and its allies have reacted negatively to the Court’s decision. Reports state Justice Minister Yariv Levin, one of the architects of the judicial overhaul, criticised the court for ‘taking into their hands all the powers’, adding that this would deprive ‘millions of citizens of their voice’ and called the decision to strike it down undemocratic. Also, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir reportedly called the ruling ‘illegal’, saying ‘this is a dangerous, anti-democratic event – and at this time, above all, a ruling that harms Israel’s war effort against its enemies’. 

The Prime Minister’s party released a statement that read ‘it is unfortunate that the Supreme Court chose to bring a ruling at the heart of the social dispute in Israel precisely when IDF [Israeli Defense Force] soldiers on the right and the left are fighting and risking their lives in the campaign’. The speaker of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), Amir Ohana, also concluded that ‘a time of war is certainly not the time to establish a first precedent of its kind in the history of the country’. 

However, the former President of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, backed the ruling and highlighted its urgency and necessity during wartime as it concerned the core principles of the state of Israel. The decision was also welcomed by the main opposition party leader and former Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, who reportedly said: ‘[The Supreme Court] faithfully fulfilled its role in protecting the citizens of Israel […] if the Israeli government again starts the quarrel over the Supreme Court then they have learned nothing’. The decision further received public support from Shikma Bressler, one of the organisers of  last year's large-scale protests held against the government.

IBAHRI Director Baroness Helena Kennedy KC stated: ‘The plans of the Israeli government to take greater control of the judiciary have been thwarted by the Supreme Court. With this ruling, the state is reminded of its commitment to the rule of law and democratic values. Now, the ruling must be respected by the Israeli authorities to uphold these democratic values.’



Notes to the Editor 

  1. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  2. Find the IBAHRI  on social media here:
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

  4. Find the IBA on social media here:

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