Detention for illegal immigrants to Israel court ruling

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 17, 2013
Grunis: historic decision (Photo: Flash 90)

Grunis: historic decision (Photo: Flash 90)

In a rare and unanimous landmark ruling, an expanded panel of Israeli High Court judges voted to strike down a Knesset law that enabled the police and the Interior Ministry to detain illegal immigrants for up to three years without trial.

In their ruling on a petition served by Israeli human-rights organisations, the nine judges decided that the law was unconstitutional, infringed on the immigrants’ right to freedom and was in breach of Israel’s Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom.

Only in a handful cases in Israel’s legal history has the High Court ruled to strike down a law passed by the Knesset.

This ruling is particularly significant because the current president of the Supreme Court, Asher Grunis, who was sworn in a year and a half ago, is considered a non-interventionist and has opposed such rulings in the past.

Judge Grunis wrote in the decision that the Knesset has 90 days in which to pass a new amendment to the law and that any detention period must be “significantly shorter”.

The High Court’s ruling was celebrated by the groups supporting migrants’ rights.

Amnesty Israel tweeted immediately afterwards that “this is a wonderful day for human rights in Israel”.

Politicians on the right were less enthused. Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party called the ruling “undemocratic” and accused the judges of interfering in the work of the Knesset. Likud’s Miri Regev, meanwhile, said that the ruling “is detached from the reality in South Tel Aviv”, referring to the neighbourhoods around Tel Aviv’s central bus station where tens of thousands of African migrants live and work without visas or permits.

Last updated: 4:06pm, September 17 2013