Challenging Promotion of Benzi Sau to Senior Position in Ministry of Public Security

HCJ 4585/06, The Families, et al., v. Avi Dichter, et al.

In 6/06, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Committee of the Victims' Families of October 2000 and in its own name against Benzi Sau and the Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, formally the head of the General Security Services. The petition demanded the cancellation of the appointment of Sau as the Head of the Minister's Operational Staff Unit in the Ministry of Public Security. Sau was one of the senior police commanders who brutally responded to protest demonstrations mounted by Arab citizens of Israel in October 2000, which resulted in the deaths of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and injury and detention of hundreds more. In 10/00, Sau was among those commanding police units, including snipers, that opened fire on protestors in and around the Arab town of Umm al-Fahem, which resulted in the deaths of three individuals and injury of several others.

In 9/03, the Or Commission, established by the government to look into the events of October 2000, recommended that Sau not be promoted for a period of four years. The new appointment, then, is illegitimate, constituting a clear promotion for Sau from his position as a border police commander. In his new position, for example, Sau is authorized set the work schedule of the Minister of Public Security; make recommendations to the Minister regarding the possible work and priorities of the police; participate in high-level government meetings at which all security matters in Israel are discussed; and override the opinion of even the Police Chief in his recommendations on the priorities of the police force's work and the best means of achieving them. In addition, the appointment of Sau is illegal as it runs contrary to the law, in particular several Supreme Court decisions issued in similar contexts. Therefore, if the authorities are to maintain a minimum level of public trust, in particular with Arab minority, the promotion of Sau must be cancelled, Adalah argued.

Result: In 10/06, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that the promotion of Benzi Sau by the Minister of Public Security should be cancelled as it contradicts the conclusions of the Or Commission. The Court ordered Sau to resign from his current position as Head of the Minister of Public Security's Operational Staff Unit within one month. The Court also ruled that it has the power of judicial review over the lack of implementation by the government of recommendations made by the Or Commission against specific individuals.

H.C. 4585/06, The Families, et al., v. Avi Dichter, et al. (petition accepted)