ACRI, Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Privacy Israel, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on November 29, 2021, demanding that it repeal emergency regulations permitting the General Security Services (GSS) to use contact-tracing for the struggle against the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which were decided by the government the previous day.
In the petition, the organizations referred to previous verdicts on the topic, noting that the HCJ previously ruled that authorizing the GSS to track civilians as a part of the struggle against COVID-19 was disproportionate, and violated the rights to privacy, liberty, and dignity. The petition further states that the court discussed the issue in depth and found that the marginal benefit of relying on GSS tracking is insufficient in curbing the spread of the pandemic, and that the harm outweighs the benefit. Thus, the HCJ ruled that the government can only authorize the GSS to track patients who do not cooperate with epidemiological investigations.
The petition further argues that the government permitted GSS tracking through the undemocratic tool of emergency regulations, despite the fact that the HCJ had ruled that authorizing the GSS to use surveillance tools for contact-tracing must be regulated through legislation, and that a government decision alone is insufficient.
Upon the submission of the petition, the High Court ordered the state to issue a response by the following day, scheduling a hearing for December 1, 2021. The state’s response ahead of the hearing noted that the Attorney General approved the use of GSS tracking through emergency regulations, despite the HCJ ruling on the matter, as it constituted “the onset of a new pandemic of sorts.”
On December 2, 2021, the High Court of Justice rejected the petition and it was determined that the use of emergency regulations due to the urgency, noted by the Ministry of Health, does not justify the court’s intervention, but it was deemed appropriate for the legislation to be executed and the emergency regulations repealed within a matter of days.
On December 7, the Ministry of Health decided not to re-authorize the General Security Services’ contact tracing.
Attorney: Gil Gan-Mor
For further information (Hebrew)