Israel Mulls Emergency Laws to Handle Palestinian Riots in West Bank

Proposed regulations, which would curtail the rights of some suspects in criminal proceedings related to unrest, has sparked disagreement among members of the Justice Ministry.

The Ministry for Public Security has prepared a draft plan for putting in place emergency law regulations to deal with possible massive protests and disruption of order in the wake of a declaration of an independent Palestinian state.

The plan - which would curtail the rights of those detained, or under arrest - has sparked disagreement among members of the Justice Ministry. The document circulated at the Justice Ministry last week after its experts, along with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, were asked to to give their opinion of it to the Public Security Ministry.

Qalandia Women's Protest - AP - September 2011

On Saturday, the ministry confirmed that in preparation for possible unrest this month emergency law regulations are being considered in order to give the police forces the necessary means to regain control. It is thought that the regulations anchored in the law governing arrests do not allow police to deal with massive violent disturbances.

However, there is fear that the emergency regulations could damage the rights of suspects in criminal proceedings in cases that are unrelated to the possible unrest in the territories.

According to the plan, the police will be authorized to detain any suspect for up to nine hours instead of three hours, as currently stipulated by the law. This will allow the police sufficient time to investigate the role of the suspect in any disturbance, and is based on the assumption that there will be large numbers of suspects held.

Another assumption is that it will be necessary to create large and isolated holding areas where the police can evaluate whether a person in custody will be arrested or released.

One proposal would allow police to use force against those being detained - and not only against those being arrested, as they are now authorized to do.

While currently the law mandates that a person arrested must be brought before the court in 24 hours from the time of arrest, the proposed regulations would allow the police to extend that to 48 hours.

This would mean that for two full days there would be no judicial supervision of the police actions or decision to arrest.

That change would also harm the right of a person arrested to meet with an attorney without delay. The Supreme Court has recognized this obligation by the investigating authorities, and ruled that it is possible to disqualify admissions by suspects if the prisoner had no access to a lawyer.

Another chapter in the document proposes certain circumstances under which a minor, suspected of having taken part in protests, could be brought before a judge within 48 hours - instead of the current 12-hour limit.

"The plan to pass emergency law regulations is a real example of the potential for seriously harming rights when draconian measures are implemented," said Dan Yakir, the legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, last night.