High Court: Targeted killing permissible
Petitioners claim State of Israel has no right to take human life, asks judges to prohibit IDF's 'assassination policy.' Court rejects petition, rules 'it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law'
High Court Judges, headed by retiring Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, on Thursday morning rejected the petition to prohibit the Israel Defense Forces' targeted killing policy.
The ruling established that restrictions and limitations must be put on the policy, such that each instance will be thoroughly examined.
In its justification of the ruling, the court wrote that "it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law."
Justice Barak wrote in the ruling that "at times democracy fights with one hand tied behind her back. Despite that, democracy has the upper hand, since preserving the rule of law and recognition of individual liberties constitute an important component of her security stance. At the end of the day, they strengthen her and her spirit, and allow her to overcome her difficulties."
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish added, "I also believe that it cannot be said in an all-embracing way that using targeted killing is forbidden."
Beinish put a condition on her opinion, and established that "in light of the extreme nature of target killing, it must not be used in accordance with the limitations and restrictions delineated in the ruling."
In their decision, the High Court judges also referred to the State's reply to the petition, in which it claimed that the targeted killing issue is not justiciable. According to the judges, in any place where the policy harms human rights it is examined by international courts and tribunals, and therefore can also be examined by national courts.
'Israel must minimize harm caused to civilians'
At the end of the ruling the judges noted that in a democratic state, war on terror is also subject to laws and that Israel must abide by international procedures based on balancing between security needs and individual rights.
They added that a fundamental principle of the customary international law of armed conflict is the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians. Justice Barak wrote that a key consideration affecting the balance is the identity of the person hurt in the confrontation.
The judges stressed that civil targets must not be subject to a military offensive, and noted that Israel is obligated to do all it can in order to minimize the harm caused to the civil population while launching the offensives.
The judges ruled, however, that "the protection accorded by international law to civilians does not apply at the time during which civilians take direct part in hostilities.
In this category the judges included a civilian bearing arms (openly or concealed) who is on his way to the place where he will use them, or is using arms, or is on his way back from such a place, is a civilian taking a direct part in hostilities, as well as those who decide on terrorist acts or plan them, and those who enlist others, guide them and send them to commit terrorist acts.
Petitioners: Israel has no right to take human life
The petition was filed by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. The petitioners claimed that the State of Israel has no right to take human life, unless they had planned to carry out an immediate terror attack.
About a month ago, hundreds of intellectuals, Nobel Prize laureates, former generals, left-wing and human rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that it rule as soon as possible on a petition dealing with the targeted killings and not allow any "additional fudging," according to them.
The last and final hearing on the petition was held in February.
"We cannot wait anymore. Any additional delay causes the deaths of more innocent people," the left-wing organizations claimed following last month's Beit Hanoun incident.