Justice Barak: Democracy in danger if power of courts reduced

Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak is convinced that High Court has not overstepped on political issues and is the protector of democracy.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Aharon Barak
Aharon Barak

Former High Court President Aharon Barak expressed concern about perceived efforts to limit the power of the High Court and the potential consequences for Israeli democracy at a conference of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) Tuesday.

He addressed a range of issues which concern the Israeli public, including the trial of Sgt. Elor Azaria. A recent poll showed that 80% of Israelis believed that the extensive media coverage of the trial and the statements of politicians regarding the trial would prejudice the verdict of the judges presiding over the case.

Another recent poll showed that just 22% of Israelis have complete faith in the High Court.

Many Israelis, including a number of right-wing politicians such as Justice Minister Aleyet Shaked,believe that the High Court has taken too much power upon itself and away from the Knesset, including the power to formulate policy.

Barak was one of the pioneers of judicial activism in Israel, under which the courts became involved in an ever-growing range of issues they had not previously been involved in.

At the conference, Barak called the judiciary system the protection of democracy, and stated that any democracy could become a dictatorship, citing Nazi Germany as an example.

"If it could happen in the Germany of Kant and Beethoven, it can happen anywhere." he said.

He said that it was the duty of the judiciary to check even the wishes of the majority to protect the rights of all. "The democratic regime ensures judges freedom, independence and a lack of political obligation. The main test of independence is in situations of national emergency. In case of terrorism, most of public opinion tilted in one direction. It is precisely in these situations that the responsibility of defending democracy lies with the judges, to reflect history and not hysteria. Democracy that defends itself? Yes. Democracy that's out of control? No."

He added that he does not believe that the courts have taken too puch power upon themselves or overstepped their authority.