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Israel: Live Broadcasting of Supreme Court Hearing Authorized During COVID-19 Emergency

(Apr. 16, 2020) On April 13, 2020, Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut approved an experimental live broadcast of a hearing before the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court of Justice. The hearing, scheduled for April 16, 2020, involves petitions questioning the validity of authorization granted to the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and the police to gather information on confirmed coronavirus patients in order to fight the epidemic. The petitioners, including the Association for Civil Rights, and others claimed that the ISA does not have the legal authority to use its capabilities in civilian matters and that the government must find alternatives to fight the spread of COVID-19. (For the ISA authorization see the Emergency Regulations (Authorization of the General Security Service to Assist the National Effort to Reduce the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus), 5780-2020 (issued March 17, 2020 and amended March 31, 2010); for the police authorization see the Emergency Regulations Enforcement of Public Health Ordinance (the Novel Coronavirus) Home Isolation and Various Provisions (Temporary Provisions) 5780-2020, as amended.)

In a statement Hayut made on April 13, 2020, she noted that the Israeli judicial system regularly adheres to the principle of open court, which requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public. She emphasized that the principle should be adhered to not only in regular times but “under the constraints required by the emergency situation and in accordance with the guidance issued by Ministry of Health.” Hayut added that the Judicial Authority was working on a pilot program of live broadcasting of selected hearings in the Supreme Court through the Government Press Office, which would include adopting a relevant procedure to be published on the Judicial Authority website.

According to news reports, the live broadcast of the ISA and police authorization hearing on April 16 is the first of 10 hearings of special public interest to be held by the High Court of Justice or an expanded panel of judges and broadcast in the coming year.