Human rights organizations petition SC: Cancel law exempting Israeli Security Services from audiovisual recording of interrogations of Palestinian detainees
On 19 July 2015, Adalah, in cooperation with six other Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding the cancellation of a temporary law exempting Israeli security agencies from audiovisual recording of interrogations of Palestinian “security suspects”. The Knesset extended the temporary law on 4 July 2015 for an additional year and a half, the latest in a series of continuous extensions of the law since 2002.
The petitioning organizations are: Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, HaMoked, and Yesh Din.
In the petition, Adalah Attorneys Nadeem Shehadeh and Fady Khoury argued that, "the temporary law infringes on the constitutional rights of the detainees with security-related charges, and violates their rights to freedom, dignity and due process." The petitioners further rejected the purposes that are ostensibly promoted by the temporary order, considering them incompatible with the basic principles of criminal law, such as the principle of revealing the truth, oversight and integrity of investigations, and preventing torture and wrongful convictions by eliciting false confessions from detainees. The petition also emphasized that the exemption from documenting interrogations unjustifiably violates due process rights by precluding the suspects from proving that confessions were false and provoked by psychological and physical torture during the interrogation.
The petition further stressed that the exemption from audiovisual recording for those charged with security-related charges primarily impacts Palestinians. As such, the law amounts to discrimination against Palestinian prisoners, violating one of the core principles in fair legal proceedings: the principle of equality before the law. Moreover, Palestinian detainees are especially vulnerable to violation of their rights, given the hostility of the Israeli security services towards Palestinian detainees and because Hebrew is the language of interrogation. It is the duty of the law to ensure their protection and not further endanger Palestinian detainees in the face of these heightened risks.
In 2013, Adalah withdrew a petition against the temporary law three years after its submission, as the Ministry of Justice committed before the Supreme Court to reconsider the details of the temporary order in 2015 before it sought an extension. (See Adalah Press Release / HCJ 9416/10, Adalah et. al. v. Minister of Public Security, et al. (petition withdrawn 7 February 2013)). However, Adalah maintained the right to challenge the temporary order again, in the case that the law was extended again. Adalah emphasized that although the exemption is called a temporary law, it has in fact been in force for more than 12 years, and serves the function of an ordinary law. Any time limitations on the law are meaningless as long as the law is renewed again and again in an almost automatic fashion. As Adalah stated in the petition, the damage resulting from the exemption is not temporary, but permanent, irreparable damage, even though the law itself is temporary: “Even if canceled in the future, it would be no remedy for those prisoners languishing in prison for years and decades because of false confessions extracted from them by force. You cannot turn the clock back, and re-examine testimonies extracted during the investigation, or identify the conditions that led to a confession, if it has not been documented.”
Finally, the petition points out that the exemption from audiovisual recording adds to a series of Israeli practices that are dangerous and isolates security detainees, in order to pressure them and thereby extract coerced confessions from them. Other dangerous practices include the ability of authorities to prevent detainees from meeting with their lawyer for up to 21 days, the court’s extension of detention without the presence of the detainee, and placing the detainee in solitary confinement. All of these practices together create an environment for the security services to use methods of torture and inhumane treatment of Palestinian detainees.
Notably in May 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed its sharp criticism of the sweeping exemption granted to the Israeli security services from making audio and video recordings of their interrogations of security suspects in its concluding observations on Israel. The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reiterated this critique in its concluding observations on Israel (para. 14) in October 2014.
Case Citation: HCJ 5014/15, Adalah, et. al. v. Minister of Public Security, et. al. (case pending)