Editorial |

Supreme Court as Rubber Stamp

The role of the High Court is to oversee and restrain the Shin Bet, not to become its abject servant

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Protesters gather outside the hospital where Khalil Awawdeh is held, this month. Arabic on the signs read, "No administrative detention. Freedom for Khalil Awawdeh."
Protesters gather outside the hospital where Khalil Awawdeh is held, this month. Arabic on the signs read, "No administrative detention. Freedom for Khalil Awawdeh."Credit: Tsafrir Abayov /AP

This week the High Court of Justice reached one of its lowest points in its history. On Sunday two weeks ago, the court rejected the petition to release the hunger-striking administrative detainee Khalil Awawdeh. At that time, Awawdeh was already deathly ill. His body weight had dropped to 38 kilograms (under 84 pounds), he was going blind and his consciousness was blurred. His hunger strike had lasted at that point for 172 days.

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Justices Daphne Barak-Erez, Ofer Grosskopf and Alex Stein wrote in their decision that after having reviewed the confidential material – far from the eyes of the petitioners, of course – their conclusion was that there exists “firm and substantial justification” for Awawdeh’s continued detention.

About a week went by, Awawdeh’s condition deteriorated even further and again a petition was submitted to the High Court because of the immediate danger to his life. On Tuesday of this week Justice Anat Baron, considered a liberal judge, ruled that no significant change had occurred in the circumstances that would justify court intervention, since the previous decision had been handed down only about a week earlier.

Along with Justices Stein and Chaled Kabub, Baron ruled that the fact that no indictment had been filed has no bearing on the extent of the strength of the evidence, because revealing the evidence “might severely harm state security.” In other words, the High Court of Justice decided that the dying man must not be released because of the danger he poses.

Only 24 hours later, wonder of wonders: The Shin Bet security service agreed to release the detainee upon his completion of the current period of detention, at the beginning of October. Until then he will stay in the hospital as a free man.

The justices of the High Court must now hang their heads in shame. If further proof were needed that in matters of the occupation the court is nothing more than a hollow rubber stamp, a body that automatically and blindly submits to every Shin Bet caprice, this case is incontrovertible proof. On Tuesday, Awawdeh was still dangerous, on Wednesday he was no longer dangerous, and all this with the approval of the High Court of Justice that, as in many other cases, was led up the garden path by the Shin Bet.

The role of the High Court is to oversee and restrain the Shin Bet, not to become its abject servant. This week the court showed it fails in this duty, and also made a laughingstock of itself.

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