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High Commissioner for Human Rights warns of Israeli judicial reforms

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The UN human rights chief expressed concern about the proposed legislative changes on the judiciary, saying they would significantly undermine the body’s ability to ensure the rule of law and human rights.

The Israeli parliament is pushing ahead with changes promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government which it says are needed to rein in activist judges meddling in politics.

The proposals, which have sparked mass protests, could increase the government’s influence in selecting judges and place limits on the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn legislation.

“Departing from decades of established practice, it would fundamentally undermine the capacity of the judiciary to defend individual rights and uphold the rule of law as effective institutional checks on the executive and legislature,” said Volcker, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. to leave.

His statement added that the changes would create greater political influence over the judicial selection system.

And Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Merav Elon Shahar, said that the previous Turkish statement showed bias.

The Austrian Turk, who became High Commissioner in October, earlier this month called on Israel to ensure respect for international rights law after his office documented the killing of a record 151 Palestinians by security forces last year.

The changes would require either a supermajority of justices or a unanimous Supreme Court to overturn any legislation.

A statement from the UN human rights office said the proposals “would allow the Knesset to reinstate, by a simple majority, any legislation struck down by the Supreme Court, and limit the grounds on which laws can be reviewed.”

The current proposals would also change the judicial selection process by changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee and altering the process for appointing Supreme Court justices.

While currently independent judges and lawyers make up the majority of the selection committee, the proposals will move toward much greater political influence over the process.

The statement added that the proposed changes would allow a simple majority of five out of nine members of the committee to confirm appointments of Supreme Court judges, instead of seven out of nine currently, further deepening government influence in the appointments process.

“I am concerned that these changes, if enacted, may lead to a weakening of human rights protections for all, but especially for the most vulnerable communities and groups least able to advocate for their rights through representation in the executive and legislative branches of government,” Türk said.

Recent demonstrations by tens of thousands of people against the proposed changes, including in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, “illustrate the extent of public alarm over the proposed changes,” the statement said.

Türk added that “changes that are at the heart of the country’s long-standing constitutional structure, affecting well-established institutional guarantees, should only take place after extensive consultations and broad political and public consensus.”

He noted, “Given the degree of public and political concern, I call on the government of Israel to halt the proposed legislative changes and open them to broader discussion and reflection.”

On Sunday, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nedis urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to back off his controversial judicial reform plans.

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