In a flash, and without any prior publication on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation's schedule, the Knesset committee might approve the coalition's anti-terror bill today. It is one of the most important and dangerous bills proposed during the last government.
Touted as a new, modern bill, it encompasses drastic changes and adjustments to all legislation related to terror (including emergency procedures). In reality the bill includes an unnecessary expansion of criminal liability, as well as enforcement powers, which, compared with existing laws, are unbecoming of a democratic state.
The core of the bill's problematic nature lies with the extremely broad definitions it sets for a terrorist organization, or terrorist act - basically, the strictest definitions possible. As soon as certain "shell organizations," including charity organizations that work in education or food distribution, can be defined as "terrorist organizations," the moral base - on which the strong, legal tools these organizations have at their disposal rests - is destroyed.
Is someone who supports a shell organization suddenly assisting terrorism? And someone who identifies with a shell organization (by displaying a flag or symbol: are they a "terrorist supporter"? Thus, instead of identifying and acting against real terrorists, the bill, if passed, would compromise both the effectiveness and the legitimacy of the fight against terrorism as a whole.
The bill also aims to deliver a harsh blow to fair and just legal proceedings. For example, if adopted the bill would allow for prior testimonies made by persons not present at trials to be counted as evidence - thus, those witnesses cannot be cross-examined. This constitutes a significant irregularity in terms of evidentiary law, which could create the danger of false convictions.
Also, the bill would seek to make permanent the "temporary" order that allows terror suspects to be held in extended remand for investigation without being brought before a judge - all the time being forbidden from seeing a lawyer - for 30 days. Consequently, any effective court supervision of investigations would be gone. The bill even calls to increase the minimum time served on life sentences before eligibility for parole from 30 to 40 years.
This dangerous bill must not receive coalition support. If this government is not like its democracy-trampling predecessor, it must hold a basic, thorough discussion of the bill, and reword everything that needs fixing before signing off on it.
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