More Detainees Held Longer Without Seeing Judge in 2012

Last year the Shin Bet held 10 detainees for 48 to 72 hours before seeing a judge, compared with four in 2011.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's Shin Bet security service made more use in 2012 of a temporary order extending the time security suspects may be detained before being brought before a judge.

According to a recent Shin Bet report submitted to Knesset, last year detention hearings were delayed for 10 detainees in all. Of these, two were held for 72 hours before an initial judicial review and eight saw a judge 48 hours after their arrest.

By way of comparison, only one suspect in the second half of 2010 and only four suspects in all of 2011 were detained for 48 hours before seeing a judge.

At the same time, the Shin Bet decreased its use of the temporary order to hold terror suspects without charges for more than 30 days. In 2012 one suspect was held for 33 days prior to indictment. In 2011 six suspects were detained for up to 35 days without facing charges, while in the second half of 2010 this provision of the detention order was invoked for nine suspects.

The report was submitted to the Knesset in preparation for a session scheduled for this week in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on extending by two years the duration of the temporary detention order permitting restrictions of judicial review for security suspects.

The temporary order, "Detainees Suspected of Security Offense," was legislated in 2006 after Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a regulatory measure for various state investigative agencies. Under certain conditions it allows terror suspects to be held for up to 96 hours before being brought before a judge for a detention order.

The order specifies that the Justice Ministry must report the use of the law to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee every six months.

The temporary order was designed to allow the state to enact a “terror law” stipulating the legal powers needed to prevent and investigate security offenses. No such comprehensive law has been passed; instead, the temporary detention order was passed in 2006 and extended by three years in 2007.

It was extended automatically until May 5, 2013 as a result of the January 2013 general election. Last week the Knesset plenum approved an additional two-year extension on the first reading, and after this week’s committee meeting the plenum is expected to pass the extension.

In the previous Knesset committee hearing on the order's extension the head of the Shin Bet’s investigations department argued that the proportional use of the order illustrates its importance.

In a white paper published ahead of this week’s session the committee's legal adviser, Sigal Kogut, wrote: “The recent report submitted to the committee shows that the order is invoked only rarely, as the law intended.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni echoed Kogut last week ahead of the vote in the Knesset plenum, saying, “These are extremely limited powers, subject to examination by the courts and to stringent conditions. The reports submitted over the year show that the security agencies make limited and cautious use of these powers.”

But MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said: “Once again, we are dealing with a law that stems from a sensitive and unique security situation, but it continues to exist during ordinary times as well. We extend it routinely and no longer ask any questions. If the government wants to institute different norms, let it go ahead and do so using proper legislation, not by this method, which sneaks in something unusual that then becomes a routine norm.”

A security prisoner in an Israeli military court.

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