The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, expressed concern about new Israeli legislation aimed at bringing changes to the judicial system, and called for stopping them.
Turk said in a statement that he feared that passing the legislation that is part of the Israeli government's plan to reform the judiciary "would pose serious risks to the effectiveness of the judiciary in defending the rule of law, human rights and judicial independence."
The changes, he added, "would drastically undermine the ability of the judiciary to vindicate individual rights and to uphold the rule of law as an effective institutional check on executive and legislative power."
This is the first criticism issued by the UN regarding the legislation approved by the Knesset in its first reading, at dawn yesterday, which limits the role of the judiciary and strips it of many of its powers.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen responded to the UN official by saying "any connection between the UN human rights commissioner and human rights is purely coincidental."
He added in a tweet: "We will not accept moral preaching from those who ignore human rights violations in Syria, Iran, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, and attack Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, more than any other country."
Military warns: Weakening the judiciary will allow Israeli officers, politicians to be tried in Europe
The bill, which passed its first reading yesterday, needs to pass three readings in the Knesset in order to go into effect.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the draft law that passed the first reading stipulates changing the mechanism for forming a committee to select judges, so that the government coalition has full control over it.
The opposition says the bill represents "the beginning of the end for democracy," while Netanyahu says it aims to restore the balance between powers (executive, legislative and judicial) that was violated over the last two decades.
Tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating across Israel for over seven weeks against the judicial reform plan that the Netanyahu government intends to implement.