"The role of the judges today is to ensure that the war on terror and the measures adopted by the state fall within the boundaries of the law and not outside of it," Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak said yesterday at a swearing-in ceremony for new judges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

"The judges must ensure that the security considerations are balanced by the need to ensure that human rights are not prejudiced beyond the necessary extent," Barak continued. "The government and the army specialize in security; but the judges are specialists in the appropriate balance between security and liberty."

Barak defended the fact that the High Court of Justice deals with petitions on security matters, thus responding to critics of the High Court who have charged that the justices should refrain from getting involved in such issues as they are not subject to judicial review.

"According to the well-known saying, when the cannons roar, the muses fall silent," the Supreme Court president said. "However, in fact, when the cannons roar, we need the muses. The truth is, when the cannons roar, it is important for us to know what we are fighting for, and to be convinced that we are fighting for a noble cause of national independence, social justice and personal liberty."

Barak also recalled the High Court’s ruling that banned the Shin Bet security service from using torture and "moderate physical pressure" in its interrogations of suspects. "The [ruling was] difficult not only from a judicial point of view, but was difficult emotionally for all the justices, as members of Israeli society," he said.

"Nevertheless," he continued, "we gave expression to the principle that the entire Western world is beginning to understand today – that this is the destiny of democracy, that not all means are acceptable in its eyes, and that not all the methods adopted by its enemies are open to it."