Tuesday, March 31 2020

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Israel's top court puts curbs on spy agency joining virus fight

Update: March, 20/2020 - 11:34

JERUSALEM — Israel's supreme court ruled on Thursday that parliament must have oversight over emergency powers allowing internal security agency Shin Bet to collect information on citizens as part of the fight against coronavirus.

In its ruling, it said the measures must be overseen by a parliamentary committee, and gave the legislature until Tuesday to put such a body in place.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet had approved the measure under emergency regulations.

That overrode a parliamentary committee that on Monday had withheld final approval, citing lack of time to debate the measures and put safeguards in place ahead of the swearing-in of a new parliament following elections earlier this month.

Gathered data would be sent to the health ministry, not kept by Shin Bet, the agency's head Nadav Argaman said.

An appeal against the measure was lodged by rights groups and the country's third largest political force, the Arab Joint List.

"Regarding Shin Bet, if after Tuesday noon parliament has not put in place a relevant commission to oversee this measure, it will be forbidden from using these surveillance rules," the judges ruled, according to a statement from the court.

Earlier the Blue and White party, whose leader Benny Gantz has been nominated to form the next government, had denounced the measure as "a dangerous decision" taken without parliamentary oversight. — AFP

 

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