13 June 2006

Adalah to Supreme Court: Cancel Promotion of Benzi Sau to Senior Position in Ministry of Public Security

On 1 June 2006, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel demanding the cancellation of the appointment of Benzi Sau to a senior position in the Ministry of Public Security as the Head of the Minister's Operational Staff Unit. Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal submitted the petition in Adalah's own name and on behalf of the Committee of the Victims' Families of October 2000 against Sau and the Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, formally the head of the General Security Services (GSS or the Shabak).

Benzi Sau was one of the most 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 the injury and detention of hundreds of individuals. Sau was in command of the police forces located in and around the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, and among those responsible for ordering the use of snipers against protestors on 2 October 2000. The use of live ammunition by snipers that day resulted in the death of one protestor, Mr. Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad, nineteen years old, and the injury of a number of other protestors. Earlier, on 1 October 2000, Sau was also responsible for leading police forces into Umm al-Fahm, where they occupied a house belonging to the Qahawish family and opened extensive fire on protestors. The opening of fire resulted in the deaths of two protestors, Mr. Ahmed Jabareen, eighteen years old, and Mr. Mohammed Jabareen, twenty-three years old, and the injury of tens of other protestors. Following these events, the Official Commission of Inquiry into the October 2000 events (the Or Commission) recommended that Sau should not be promoted in rank or position for a period of four years from the day of the publication of the Commission's final report on 1 September 2003 until 1 September 2007.

On 28 May 2006, however, Sau was appointed by Dichter to the position of Head of the Minister's Operational Staff Unit. Adalah argued that this position constitutes a clear promotion for Sau, as he has been granted a greater degree of power and influence than in his previous position as a border police commander. This new position authorizes Sau to set the work schedule of the Minister of Public Security, and to make recommendations to the Minister regarding the possible work and priorities of the police. Furthermore, Sau has the authority to 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 these priorities. Moreover, as the Head of the Minister's Operational Staff Unit, Sau is able to participate, along with the Minister of Public Security, in high-level government meetings, including at cabinet level, concerning security, at which all security matters in Israel are discussed, not only those relating to the police.

In the petition, Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal argued that the appointment of Sau is illegal and tantamount to a promotion in a manner which runs contrary to the law and the recommendations of the Or Commission in this regard. The petition emphasized, drawing on previous Supreme Court decisions issued in a similar context that, even without the recommendations of the Or Commission, the new appointment and promotion of Sau must be considered absolutely illegitimate, if the authorities wish to maintain a minimum level of public trust. This argument, the petitioners asserted, is further validated by the complete loss of trust on the part of the Arab minority in the Israeli police following the police's actions, which resulted in death and injury of protestors in October 2000.

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

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