Coronavirus

Civil Rights Group Wants Halt To Israeli Cellphone Monitoring For Virus

Court Hears Challenge To Israel’s Emergency Monitoring Of Citizens

Activists for human rights and civil liberties have asked Israel’s top court to put a stop to cellphone monitoring by the state that was implemented to help slow the coronavirus from spreading further in the country, according to a report by Reuters.

The country is now in a partial lockdown, with citizens required to stay at home except to shop for food and medical needs, and with some workers exempt.

The surveillance program was started this week and was put in place without legislative approval. The Shin Bet anti terrorism agency in the country was given permission to tap into cellphone location data.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel, Adalah and the Joint List of Arab parties both asked the court to stop the agency from doing the monitoring.

“The government cannot bypass the legislature and hide behind a general state of emergency to commit such extreme human rights violations,” Adalah said. “This crosses a red line no less troubling (than) the coronavirus epidemic itself.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said if he had waited for parliamentary approval lives would have been lost. 

The country’s health ministry said it notified about 400 people that they were near a person carrying the coronavirus. A two-week period for the rules was implemented. 

There are about 677 cases of the virus of the country as of Thursday (March 19).

Parliament was sworn in on Monday in the country, with Netanyahu’s party and his rival party fighting about how to form legislative committees, which would include one that would oversee the surveillance issue. 

The government asked the court to dismiss the petitions, and said that once a committee is established it can create a law to put in proper monitoring procedures, as well as seek “normal legislation.”

The opponents of Netanyahu say he’s undermining democracy by not going through congress. He denies those allegations.

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