Israel: ICJ urges repeal or amendment of new emergency powers legislation

The ICJ urges Israel to repeal or amend the “Great Coronavirus Law” adopted on 23 July. In the context of concerns about the emergency measures taken in recent months, the Law restricts parliamentary oversight of measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic in a manner that could undermine human rights protection and the rule of law.

The Law would enter into force on 10 August, replacing a “placeholder” law adopted by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) earlier in July that currently gives even wider powers to the executive government but will expire on that date.

Under the new Law, the executive government has authority to declare COVID-19-related states of emergency for 60 days at a time until 30 June 2021, although the Knesset retains the power to revoke any such state of emergency.

Once a state of emergency is in place, the Law accords the Government the power to adopt “emergency regulations” for renewable periods of 28 or 14 days, depending on the type of restrictions envisaged.

The ability of Knesset committees to reverse such “emergency regulations” is significantly restricted under the Law.

As the ICJ highlighted in a briefing paper, “emergency regulations” already adopted since March 2020, and continued under the “placeholder” law, have failed in many respects to comply with international law and standards on the declaration of a state of emergency and related formal and substantive requirements under article 4 of the the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the protection of the right to privacy with regard to the “tracking programme” of Israeli citizens; and respect for detainees’ rights to independent legal counsel and to family visits.

“The emergency powers legislation significantly weakens the ordinary role of the Parliament and risks paving the way for further arbitrary restrictions on human rights beyond those already seen in the regulations adopted to date,” said Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director.

“The Law should be repealed or amended to ensure effective oversight by Parliament over all emergency measures.”

Since March 2020, the Israeli Government has adopted a number of “emergency regulations” with the purported aim of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Respecting international law while tackling the COVID-19 pandemic is not optional, Israel must handle the pandemic in a way that guarantees the full enjoyment of human rights,” Benarbia added.

Contact

Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org

 

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