Defending Civil Liberties And Democracy During Covid-19


Upholding freedom of protest: At a time when the legitimacy of dissent was under assault, often under the guise of COVID-19 restrictions, Shatil and NIF grantees defended Israelis’ freedom to protest. Through judicial petitions, ACRI and Adalah secured the right to protest under lockdown, in accordance with public health measures. The Shatil-led Forum for the Freedom of Protest trained activists on their rights and on options for recourse when those rights are violated.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to cancel a new emergency COVID-19 regulation which bans Israelis from demonstrating more than one kilometre from their homes.

ACRI insisted that the COVID-19 infection data and the guidance of epidemiological professionals do not justify such a draconian restriction.

ACRI wrote –

From what the prime minister and ministers allied to him said during cabinet discussions on both regulations and legislation, it was clear that the main motive, if not the only one was the prevention of the continuation of demonstrations opposite the Prime Minister’s residence. It is clear that that is an alien consideration. It was an inappropriate aim which should invalidate both the amendment to the law and the regulations.

After the public outcry, this anti-democratic regulation was allowed to expire.

A petition by NIF grantees Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah: The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights has become the first-ever Supreme Court hearing to be broadcast live in Israel.

Their petition opposes measures by the Israeli police and the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, to track Israeli citizens infected with coronavirus and those who have come in contact with them, as well as those in compulsory self-isolation.

While public health policies intended to curb the spread of coronavirus are important and justified, these intrusive surveillance measures are government overreach, using the COVID-19 pandemic as cover for rolling back civil liberties.

On Feb 2021, the Israeli economy reopened, and with it came the jumpstart of the “green passport” system, a law authorizing the Ministry of Health to reveal information about unvaccinated civilians to local municipalities, and a proposal to place electronic tracking bracelets on Israelis coming in from abroad.

On the first of March, the High Court of Justice accepted our year-long claim that the Israeli General Security Services tracking of civilians during the pandemic is a severe violation of the right to privacy and cannot continue past March 14, 2021 in its current form.

Should the government wish to continue tracking civilians in the fight against the pandemic, there must be a clear, publicized protocol for doing so, and the tool is authorized only in circumstances in which an infected civilian refuses to cooperate with epidemiological investigations, or does not relay the full scope of contact with others.

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