WASHINGTON – Judges in Israel are experienced at balancing human rights and security considerations against a backdrop of violence and can serve as a model for jurists in other countries, a member of Israel’s Supreme Court said Wednesday.
Israel "may indeed possess the most recent and comprehensive hands-on experience in confronting this difficult issue, which plagues a growing number of countries," Justice Dalia Dorner told law students at American University.
Dorner’s court was praised last week by Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who said Israeli judges have adopted intermediate solutions that acknowledge the security risks the country faces, along with human rights.
Dorner warned that governments, during emergencies, can focus almost exclusively on security. Courts, she said, become "the dominant guardian and protector of human rights."
Challenges to the U.S. government’s strategy in the fight against terrorism are working their way through courts.
Dorner said she had followed one, involving the detention of about 660 terrorist suspects in Cuba without charges or access to lawyers. The detainees are suspected of ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network or Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime.
The Supreme Court has refused to review one case involving the detentions at Guantanamo Bay. A separate appeal on behalf of some detainees and their families is pending.
Dorner said that her court does not have the luxury to wait to hear cases. The court reviews them and issues rulings "in real time, whilst the cannons roar," she said.
U.S. legal experts are divided on whether American judges should look beyond the country’s borders in decision-making.
David Rivkin, a conservative Washington attorney, said American judges may find accounts of experiences like Dorner’s interesting. But encouraging that "completely distorts what is the proper and narrow role of U.S courts," Rivkin said.
Breyer, during his comments last week at Columbia Law School, stopped short of endorsing Israeli solutions but said there is something to be learned from the court.
Claudio Grossman, American University’s law school dean, said: "In the 21st Century, it’s very important to be open for experiences and thinking by everyone."