Haim Cohen, 91; High Court Justice in Israel, Champion of Rights

From Associated Press

Haim Cohen, a former Israeli Supreme Court justice and a human rights advocate, died Wednesday in Jerusalem. He was 91.

Cohen was the first president of the Assn. of Civil Rights in Israel, one of the nation's leading human rights organizations, a position he assumed after retiring in 1981 after 21 years as a Supreme Court justice.

Many of his most notable decisions as a justice were minority opinions on human rights issues.

In one case, he disagreed with the court majority, arguing for the right of an extremist party tied to Arab militants to run for the parliament. Later, his view was adopted in the opposite context, when a party founded by Jewish extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane was permitted to run.

In 1980, in one of his last dissenting opinions, Cohen argued against the right of the government to expel Palestinian activists from the West Bank and Gaza.

"He was the conscience of this country," said Judge Hadassah Ben-Itto, president of the International Assn. of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, which Cohen helped found.

A member of many legal and human rights organizations, Cohen was Israel's U.N. representative for human rights and served as a member of the World Court at The Hague.

Cohen wrote five books, including "The Trial and Death of Jesus."

Born in Luebeck, Germany, Cohen studied at a Jewish seminary in Hamburg before going to Israel in 1930. He later returned to Germany to study law at Frankfurt University before opening his own law practice in Jerusalem in 1937.

Cohen was buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

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