Foreign Indictments Unit Facing Delay

A plan to establish a special Justice Ministry unit to handle overseas legal proceedings against senior Israeli officials has encountered an unexpected delay: The prosecutors' union, which represents hundreds of attorneys, is demanding that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador rescind Dr. Roi Sheindorf's appointment as the new unit's head.

Prosecutors are demanding that Lador issue a tender to fill the position, as well as for the other nine lawyers in the unit. If no tender is published for the posts, including the job to which Sheindorf was appointed, the union is threatening to go to court.

Issuing tenders would delay the unit's establishment for months.

In October, the Security Cabinet decided to immediately establish a unit in the State Prosecutor's Office to handle legal proceedings against Israelis in international tribunals or foreign courts stemming from the state's actions in fighting terror.

The unit is supposed to advise past and present military officers and civil servants who are vulnerable to legal action overseas. In addition, the unit would contact foreign attorneys who specialize in international law to arrange immediate representation if needed.

Sheindorf is an expert in international law, and Lador approved his appointment.

But the chairwoman of the prosecutors' union, Hadas Forer-Gafni, complained in a letter to Lador that a ministry search committee approached a limited number of attorneys of its own choosing, interviewed them for the position and then chose Sheindorf to head the department - all without the legally required tender process. The union, she added, learned about the process only by chance.

Moreover, she charged, it seems that Sheindorf intends to pick his own staff, also without tenders.

Forer-Gafni called such actions unprecedented and unacceptable, saying they were a clear violation of both the prosecutors' terms of employment and the ministry's regulations.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said the lack of a tender stemmed from the urgency of the situation. "An immediate response was needed to the threats heard throughout the world against the State of Israel and its senior officials," he said. "The timetable necessitated immediate preparations, and the Justice Ministry, backed by the cabinet decision and with the Civil Service Commission's approval, was required to find the most appropriate candidates to head the unit without delay."

Moreover, he said, the appointment was a temporary position, and the experience required was very different than the routine work carried out by prosecutors.