Bill Seeks to Force Victims, Witnesses to Report for Questioning

A draft government law that would enable the police to force crime victims and witnesses to report for questioning, and even to submit to a body search, is to be discussed today by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The proposed law, which would apply to the victims of sexual crimes and to minors, inter alia, is widely opposed by human rights organizations.

According to the explanatory material accompanying the bill, the lack of a mechanism for requiring victims and witnesses to undergo questions "significantly impairs the ability of the police to conduct investigations."

The Knesset passed the bill on a first reading in June 2006, during a late-night session, on a vote of 20 to one. Little attention was paid to the vote at the time. The sole "nay" vote came from KM Dov Khenin (Hadash), who called the law "bad and harmful, giving the police totally excessive authority." He noted that the bill did not even guarantee that body searches be carried out by police officers of the same gender, only that this would be done "insofar as is possible."

The Knesset's research department determined that individuals cannot generally be compelled to report for questioning in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Denmark and Germany. In France, Finland and Sweden both suspects and witnesses can be compelled, and in Sweden anyone who does not report for questioning can be fined or arrested.

The National Council for the Child wants minors exempted from the law, noting in a document submitted to the committee that "crime victims often need long-term treatment before finding the strength to complain, to be questioned and eventually also to testify."