Knesset Panel Gives Shin Bet Green Light to Hold Terror Suspects Up to 96 Hours Before Facing Judge

Bill also authorizes court to extend remand in suspect's absence; Balad MK: Law would violate human rights.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee has approved for a second and third reading legislation that would extend the temporary order on holding terror suspects. The bill would enable investigative bodies to postpone bringing persons suspected of committing acts of terror before a judge for extension of their remand for up to 96 hours after the time of arrest.

The temporary order authorizes the court, in certain cases, to extend a suspect’s remand even in his absence.

The head of investigations at the Shin Bet presented data demonstrating that the organization hardly makes use of the authorizations in the bill but it would like to reserve the right to conduct prolonged investigations of terror suspects in exceptional cases.

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad), who voted against the extension of the temporary order, argued during the discussion: “This law is a document that is, in its entirety, a violation of human rights. Instead of bringing the security organizations before the Knesset for criticism, the Knesset just provides more tools and laws for the executive branch. It is necessary to revoke this law altogether. Cream should not be put before the cat.”

MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) tried to advance a move in the committee whereby the bill would be approved, with the exception of the controversial provision concerning the extension of a suspect’s remand in his absence from the courtroom – of which no use has been made in recent years.

According to Kol, “It is difficult to come to terms with the isolation of detainees from any external element. The balance between security needs and elementary human rights is still problematic and unsatisfactory.”

“We are asking for this provision to be added permanently to the law book,” said Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan in the committee session. Turning to MK Kol, he said: “This provision is intended only for situations in which there is a threat to human life.”

MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) attacked Nitzan’s remarks: “From its perspective, the Shin Bet doesn’t want to have those restrictions on it at all, but the role of the legislator,” she said, “is to balance and preserve the state’s interest with that of citizens. Israel must maintain its security but it also wants to be a democratic country and I don’t want an unconstitutional law like this one to stain its law books.”

Taking the opposite tack, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) praised the Shin Bet and lauded the fact that despite the temporary order in effect for several years now, it has hardly been used at all.

According to the data presented by the Shin Bet, in the course of 2012 10 detainees' court dates postponed: Two of them were brought to court only 72 hours after they were arrested and the rest only after 48 hours.

This, as compared to four suspects in all of 2011 who were brought before a judge 48 hours after they were arrested, and just one suspect in the second half of 2010.

However, there has been a drop in the frequency of the ability to extend a remand beyond the 30-day period stipulated by law. In 2012, one suspect had his remand extended by 33 days, as compared to six suspects whose remands were extended for up to 35 days in 2011 and nine suspects in the second half of 2011.

The temporary order was originally passed in 2006, following the Gaza disengagement, in order to regularize investigators’ authority regarding security crimes and allowing a series of leniencies to the security establishment with regard to extending the remand of suspects in security crimes, relative to other persons under arrest.

File photo: Israel Prison Service buses transports security prisoners in preparation for the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, 2011.Credit: Ilan Assayag

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