Israel’s proposed judicial reforms pose a threat to Palestinians: UN-mandated report

GENEVA (Reuters) – The Israeli government’s proposed judicial overhaul poses a threat to Palestinians, an independent body set up by the United Nations said on Thursday, adding to foreign scrutiny of the reforms now on hold.

The proposals, which would limit some powers of the Supreme Court and increase the government’s grip on judicial appointments, have sparked unprecedented protests in Israel and Western concerns about the independence of Israel’s judiciary.

As part of a 56-page report, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) cites preliminary legislation including bills that could increase taxation of pro-Palestinian NGOs and limit their ability to document the activities of Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank.

Other proposals by members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition would strip members of Israel’s Arab minority of their citizenship and allow for their deportation if they commit pro-Palestinian violence, the report said.

“The proposed changes would dismantle fundamental features of the separation of powers and essential checks and balances in democratic political systems,” he said.

“Legal experts have warned they risk weakening human rights protections, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, including Palestinian citizens,” he added.

Netanyahu says the proposed reforms would balance the branches of government and reduce the overreach of the courts. But he suspended them in March to allow compromise talks with opposition parties.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva said the report contained false accusations. “The allegations against Israel presented in the latest report are largely based on so-called public hearings that would best be described as sham trials,” he said. “The COI also appears to reject any submissions that do not fit its biased narrative.”

The commission, created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2021, found that Israel was increasingly stifling rights defenders, “through harassment, threats, arrests, interrogations, arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment”.

The commission, which conducted about 130 interviews, also found that Palestinian authorities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza had targeted Palestinian rights activists.

“The arrest and detention of Palestinian activists by Israeli and Palestinian authorities has been noted as a particularly harsh reality for many Palestinian activists,” the report said.

(Reporting by Dan Williams and Emma Farge; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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