Israeli soldiers walk with a terror suspect in Hebron, August 2011.
Israeli soldiers with a terror suspect in Hebron. Photo by AP
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Despite opposition of human rights groups, the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved on Tuesday an extension of temporary legislation exempting the Shin Bet from documenting investigations of suspected security offenders.

According to the existing law, investigations of offenses that may result in punishment of more than 10 years must be filmed or recorded. But the temporary legislation, which was extended by three years before expiring at midnight on Tuesday, allows an exemption of security investigations over the past nine years.

The written explanation of the need for the temporary legislation extension stated that "in the special circumstances of security investigations that deal with organized extremist terror organizations, such documentation may significantly damage the quality and actual possibility of such investigations, thus hampering the capability of dealing with terror threats."

Representatives of the Shin Bet told the committee that according to their professional legal advice, such legislation should be permanent. Due to the opposition of ministers Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, the government agreed to extend the exemption by two years, until a new terror law is formulated.

The Shin Bet's head of investigation department, who participated in the debate, explained that "Shin Bet investigations are documented and reviewed from beginning to end. We are not discussing human rights, but protection of investigation methods. The exemption is necessary since our enemies learn our investigation methods."

Representatives of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Public Defender's Office opposed the extension, insisted that there is utmost importance in such documentation. Attorney Layla Margalit of ACRI and Rachel Daniely of the Public Defender's Office argued that the exemption request for all security investigations is unbalanced and too comprehensive.

ACRI submitted a document to the committee explaining the utmost importance of documenting security investigations, not only for the purpose of guaranteeing the credibility of confessions, but also for promising a proper investigation and preventing unacceptable investigation methods.

The document added that "suspects under arrest are the main group of people exposed to the danger of humiliating or inhuman treatment, and physical or mental violence which could at times amount to torture… documenting security investigations could help deal with complaints of improper treatment or torture during security investigations and could be an objective source as to what happens during investigations, supporting or refuting suspects' claims in these matters."