Arab Joint List, Adalah turn again to Supreme Court, demanding halt to Shin Bet’s invasive surveillance of citizens in struggle against coronavirus

Amended petition filed against PM Netanyahu, Shin Bet security service, police, and Health Ministry demands revocation of gov’t resolution which allows Shin Bet to gather private information on Israeli citizens and residents in fight against pandemic.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Arab Joint List filed an amended petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday, 5 April 2020, against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Shin Bet intelligence service, the police, and the Health Ministry, demanding answers regarding the Shin Bet’s involvement in the struggle against the spread of the coronavirus.


In the petition, Adalah attorneys Suhad Bishara and Hassan Jabareen demand the state explain why:


  1. It is not repealing the emergency regulations authorizing the police to exploit the cellular location data of Israeli citizens;
  2. It is not repealing the amendment to the emergency regulations authorizing the Shin Bet to participate in the national effort against coronavirus;
  3. It is not cancelling the government’s 31 March 2020 resolution which extends the Shin Bet’s powers to gather private information on Israeli citizens and residents as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.


(Photo: Shin Bet/Youtube)


Adalah and the Joint List argue in their amended petition that the emergency regulations in question were formulated without legal authority and in contravention of Israel’s Basic Law: Government. Further, they argue that the government’s decision authorizing the expansion of the Shin Bet's power to gather information on citizens and residents regarding the fight against coronavirus constitutes an extreme deviation from the agency’s authority and runs contrary to its purpose as defined by Israeli law. The petitioners also argue that the violations of the constitutional rights to privacy and dignity in this case are very invasive, dangerous, and grossly disproportionate.


The petitioners filed the first petition against the emergency regulations on 18 March 2020. Following a hearing on this petition, in conjunction with two other petitions (HCJ 2190/20, Adv. Shahar Ben Meir v. Knesset and HCJ 2135/20, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Prime Minister), the Israeli Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction on 19 March 2020, limiting the state’s and the Shin Bet security service’s use of tracking and monitoring of citizens – both coronavirus patients and the location of persons who were in the vicinity of individuals with a positive lab result for the virus – through various technological means, including cellphone surveillance. The court specified that if a parliamentary oversight committee was not established to monitor these practices by 24 March 2020, the whole program would be banned.


Following the court’s decision, the Knesset Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services discussed and confirmed a governmental resolution to authorize the Shin Bet to conduct surveillance based on the Shin Bet Law (rather than the emergency regulations).


At the time of the filing of this amended petition:


  • Regulations are still in effect allowing Israeli police to exploit the cellular location data of citizens and residents;
  • While the Shin Bet’s authorization to participate in the coronavirus struggle expired on 31 March 2020, the government approved a resolution the same day that extended the authority of the Shin Bet “[to carry out] an epidemiological investigation to reduce and prevent the spread of the new coronavirus”. The new government resolution also granted the Shin Bet the broadest possible powers to monitor and collect private information on citizens and residents without any supervision and with the widest possible discretion.


Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara issued a statement:


"The Israeli government decision expanding the authority of the Shin Bet to allow surveillance of private citizens and residents for civilian purposes is very dangerous. According to Israeli law, the Shin Bet's scope of authority is limited only to security-related issues. Allowing the Shin Bet to employ its secret, unsupervised methods in civilian affairs could create a dangerous slippery slope that might pave the way for its intervention in additional civilian realms."



Case Citation: HCJ 2141/20, Adalah and the Joint List v. The Prime Minister, et. al (case pending)


CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]