Contributions > Leslie Sebba

Leslie Sebba
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Detention and Human Rights – The Case of Israel


In Israel progress on both international and domestic human rights norms has been somewhat sporadic, a notable breakthrough having occurred in the years 1991/2, when the Israel Government (largely on the initiative of Minister of Justice Dan Meridor) ratified the main UN human rights conventions, and the Knesset passed the Basic Law: Dignity and Liberty of the Person. Other significant contributions have taken the form of (generally one-off) High Court responses to petitions by or on behalf of prisoners, on the part of such Supreme Court justices as Haim Cohn (access to literature), Eliahu Mazza (freedom of communication), Elyakim Rubinstein (minimal space per prisoner) and Aharon Barak (prohibition of enema). Barak also led the “activist judiciary” school, which held that the Court had the power to invalidate legislation which infringed the Basic Laws. The exercise of such powers has been applied to provisions for the detention of asylum seekers and soldiers. Note should also be taken of the role of Supreme Court justices appointed as heads of advisory committees (generally including public servants and academics), e.g. on sentencing policy (Goldberg) and the use of incarceration (Dorner). Such developments, however, do not represent the dominant trend, and it is fair to say that progress in promoting both international and domestic human rights norms has been characterized by both structural and ad hoc obstacles?


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