By Moshe Reinfeld, Ha'aretz Supreme Court Correspondent
The High Court of Justice has the authority to supervise the activity of all
elements of the executive branch outside Israel, including the activity in
El-Khiam prison in southern Lebanon, two human rights groups argued
yesterday in an ongoing proceeding in the High Court.
The two organizations - the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and
the Center for the Protection of the Individual - made their arguments
at the request of the court.
The question of the court's authority arose in a hearing held two months
ago on two petitions that were submitted by the human rights organizations
in the name of nine Lebanese, out of more than 100 Lebanese, who have
been imprisoned for years without going on trial and in appalling conditions
at El-Khiam, which is formally administered by the Israeli-backed South
The petitions call on the defense minister to either release the prisoners, who
were also tortured, or to permit them to meet with Israeli lawyers and to
allow representatives of human rights groups to visit them and examine their
The petitioners maintain that Israel is responsible for preserving human rights
in southern Lebanon because it effectively controls the region, either directly
or through the South Lebanon Army.
They also noted that the question of the court's authority to supervise the
actions of the executive branch of government in the occupied territories of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been previously recognized by both the
current and previous presidents of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak and
Meir Shamgar, respectively.
The petitioners noted that Israeli courts have never rejected a petition dealing
with a severe infringement of basic human rights on the grounds that it is not