The Right to Life and Limb in Israeli Law


Israeli law has abolished the death penalty for murder (as well as corporal punishment which once existed). Israel’s Good Samaritan Law of 1998 requires one to render assistance in a situation of immediate and severe danger to another. The Punitive Law (1977) includes a chapter similar to the U.S. Good Samaritan Law, which protects a person who offers assistance in a situation of danger to himself or someone else from criminal responsibility. These protections include the self-defense clause, which deals with repelling an illegal attack which endangers oneself or another; the necessity clause, which protects one from criminal punishment while engaged in saving a life from real danger; and the compulsion clause, which protects a person from criminal punishment for any actions committed under threat of murder. Finally, Article 332 of the Punitive Law establishes responsibility for helpless people, including the requirement to provide basic sustenance and to care for a helpless person’s health. 

The violation of a person’s right to life and limb is both a tort and a criminal violation; and the extradition law of 1954 prohibits the extradition of a person to a nation in which he or she might be expected, if convicted, to face the death penalty. The extradition shall take place only if the state requesting extradition commits not to impose the death penalty.

Israeli law which violates the right to life and limb

The death penalty still exists, in principle, under Israeli law, but only under limited circumstances. The penalty can be invoked by power of the Doing Justice to Nazis and their Assistants Law (1950), the Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (1950), treason during a time of war, and certain violations of the emergency defense directives of 1945.

The right to life and limb in Israeli case law

The right to life is of primary importance in Israeli rulings: “The right to life and to all of things on which life depends – the right to breathe, to drink, and to eat – is the mother of all right, is man himself.” A full description of the relevant case law is in the background document. It deals with the balance between the right to life and the public’s right to information; the question of whether the state must request the extradition of an Israeli on trial in another country if he stands to suffer the death penalty in the country in which he is being tried; the question of enforced medical treatment on a patient who refuses; euthanasia; and targeted killings.


Source: Constitution for Israel Project