Human Rights Organizations Petition the Supreme Court to Nullify Law that Blatantly Violates Detainees' Rights

The law allows for the arrest of suspects for long periods without any judicial oversight, for deliberations to take place in their absence, and for the decision to extend their detention to be concealed from them

On 4 March 2008, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel, demanding that the court annul a law that blatantly violates the basic rights of detainees suspected of committing security crimes. The law allows such persons, under certain circumstances, to be detained for 96 hours without any judicial oversight (in ordinary criminal cases, suspects may be detained for a period of 24 hours or 48 hours), to have their detention extended in their absence, and not to be told of the court's decision to lengthen their arrest.  The petitioners warned that the law, which was specifically enacted to provide the state with more draconian methods for handling suspects from Gaza after the dismantling of the military regime there, reflects norms unacceptable for a democratic society. The petitioners argued that in practice the law is used solely against Palestinians, who make up the overwhelming majority of detainees classified by Israel as “security” detainees, and thus it discriminates against them and divests them of fundamental rights and the judicial procedural safeguards to which every person is entitled.

The Criminal Procedure (Detainees Suspected of Security Offenses) Law was legislated in 2006 as a temporary order for a period of 18 months. In January 2008, the Israeli Knesset extended the validity of the law for three additional years. It is apparent from discussions held within the Knesset that the Ministry of Justice intends to turn the temporary law into a permanent law. The petitioners therefore requested that an urgent hearing be scheduled on the petition.

The petitioners emphasized that if the law is not nullified, detainees will continue to be deprived of their freedom – at the primary stage – without any judicial oversight, and at the second stage, without being able to voice their claims and without their lawyers being able to provide effective defense. The law views judicial oversight as a “stumbling block” to interrogation, and seeks to allow security suspects to be interrogated far from the purview of the courts, thereby fostering conditions that enable detainees to be tortured and exposed to unlawful methods of interrogation.

The law joins a series of other laws and regulations that violate the rights of individuals suspected of committing security crimes, notably the law allowing detainees to be prevented from meeting their lawyers for a period of 21 days, and the law exempting security offences from the general obligation to make audio or video recordings of interrogations. The end result is that individuals can be detained, deprived of their liberty, isolated from the outside world and interrogated by the General Security Services (GSS) for three weeks, while being brought before a court just once. Such persons are deprived of their right to due process, because they cannot object to their detention, nor can they lodge any complaint against their humiliating detention conditions or against any physical or psychological torture to which they may have been subjected during their interrogation.

Numerous legal experts in Israel, the Israeli Public Defenders’ Office and a group of Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations and academics have expressed concern about this law and the violation of human rights it entails, when it was brought before the Knesset.

The petitioners demanded that the law be cancelled, arguing that it blatantly violates the rights of detainees and breaches Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and international law.

Attorneys Eliahu Abram from PCATI, Lila Margalit from ACRI and Fatmeh El-‘Ajou from Adalah submitted the petition.

H.C. 2028/08, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, et al., v. The Minister of Justice, et al.