01/12/2023, 11.27
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Judges and magistrates against 'devastating' Netanyahu justice reform

In an unprecedented open letter, high officials and former officials attack a project that will end up 'destroying the Israeli judicial system'. The method of selecting judges will be overturned, serious limits will be placed on their authority, the separation of powers and their equality will be endangered. Opposing demonstrations between sympathisers and critics of the reform. 

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The reform proposed by Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin, supported by the majority Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will end up "destroying the judicial system".

In an open letter published today and "unprecedented" in the country's history, all of Israel's former attorneys general and most of its retired prosecutors take a stand against the executive branch and the bill under consideration that will radically change justice and law.

"We were shocked to hear the plan ... and we're convinced that it does not herald an improvement of the system, but threatens to destroy it," the letter reads.

In the open letter, some of the most authoritative magistrates say that Levin's plan intends to "change the method of selecting judges" and risks transforming the Supreme Court from an "independent institution" that acts "without fear and prejudice" into a "political body". The risk is that 'suspicions' may arise of distortion or exploitation of the law 'in favour of the government' while compromising the independence between the various powers of the state. 

Added to this is the 'significant limitation' of the 'authority' of judges and courts to exercise 'real criticism towards the government' so that the latter does not 'abuse its powers' and leaving the field open for a majority coalition to decide without counterweights and limits. 'All this,' they add, 'regardless of how wrong or harmful a decision may be' through an 'annulment clause'.

Magistrates and lawyers continue the letter by recalling how the Supreme Court is a "valiant institution", among the "best" in Israel's history and "recognised" abroad among the most "authoritative" in the world.

In the absence of a constitution, and without a human rights charter, it is the one that has upheld the rule of law in Israel, even against executive power, fighting arbitrariness and corruption and protecting human rights, including those of minority groups. Now these achievements, they warn, are "in grave danger" so the government should drop the reform plan and "avert further serious damage" to the judiciary.

The goal, they conclude, must be to "preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in light of the values" expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

The judicial reform plan wanted by Netanyahu continues to fuel clashes and divisions in the country, with opposing demonstrations in support or against it involving executive sympathisers and critical voices.

The parliamentary opposition is calling for mass protests in the streets against a reform that will weaken not only the Supreme Court, but all of Israel's democratic institutions. Yesterday evening, activist groups demonstrated outside the Justice Minister's house, in response to an earlier gathering of pro-government groups that had gathered near the home of former High Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak, one of the most critical voices on the opposition front.

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