Judicial Setbacks, Material Gains: Terror Litigation at the Israeli High Court of Justice

Menachem Hofnung, Keren Weinshall Margel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ecent research indicates that even in countries with strong judicial review, supreme courts have proved reluctant to oppose restrictions on civil liberties in times of war, or in crises that resemble war-like emergencies. Accordingly, most research conducted on the Israeli High Court of Justice argues that despite using the rhetoric of human rights, the HCJ rarely intervenes in security-based decisions targeted to prevent terrorist activity. Our research, based on an empirical sample of cases litigated at the HCJ in 2000–2008, argues that the picture is more complex, and that in fact the Israeli court does play a significant role in reducing human rights violations. Although in most cases the HCJ does not overtly intervene in the decisions of the security authorities, we show that the court's decisions on terror contain an implicit, yet no less important, facet in preventing numerous harmful decisions. We further test the relationship between the overt and latent nature of the HCJ's power, and show how different political and security conditions, such as the public mood or the occurrence of deadly terror attacks, affect justices' decisions to reject a petition, openly accept it, or intervene more latently in the security authorities' policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-692
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Empirical Legal Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010


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