Impatient MKs Submit Bill for Watchdog to Field Complaints Against Prosecutors

A proposal to appoint an ombudsman to handle complaints against prosecutors is making some government attorneys nervous.

A private member's bill creating the position was recently submitted to the Knesset after its sponsors got tired of waiting for the Justice Ministry, which has been considering a similar proposal for several months.

Under the bill, the ombudsman would enjoy broad powers that include the authority to recommend disciplinary action against prosecutors and even dismissal.

It was sponsored by Kadima MKs Gideon Ezra, Marina Solodkin and Israel Hasson; Shas MKs David Azoulay and Nissim Zeev; and National Union MKs Uri Ariel and Aryeh Eldad.

Ombudsmen would need the same formal qualifications as district court judges. They would have to be familiar with the work of the state prosecution, with criminal law and the laws of evidence, and have experience in handling criminal cases, but prosecutors would be barred from the position.

The ombudsman would be appointed by the justice minister, in consultation with the state prosecutor, from a list of candidates recommended by a public committee. The committee's seven members would include three Knesset members, a retired Supreme Court justice, an academic, the civil service commissioner or a representative, and the Bar Association chairman or a representative.

Anyone who feels they have been personally hurt by the actions of a prosecutor would be able to submit complaints to the ombudsman. The attorney general and state prosecutor would also be able to ask the ombudsman to probe suspected prosecutorial misconduct.

If the ombudsman finds reason to suspect a prosecutor of criminal misconduct, they must inform the attorney general, the state attorney and the justice minister. In the event of evidence of a disciplinary infraction, he must inform the state prosecutor and the justice minister, and can recommend that the latter file charges in a disciplinary court.

"This bill is meant to increase the public's faith in the prosecution in light of its growing power," the preamble to the draft law explains. "Therefore, the bill seeks to create an objective, professional body to examine complaints about prosecutors doing their jobs, similar to, for instance, the police ombudsman, the [prison] wardens' ombudsman and the judicial ombudsman."

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein recently appointed a Justice Ministry task force to consider creating such a post, but the MKs declined to wait for its recommendations.

One Tel Aviv prosecutor told Haaretz the bill was arousing great anxiety among government attorneys, because they fear it is likely to the first of a series of laws aimed at undermining the prosecution's independence. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador has come out strongly against the bill, saying an ombudsman would intimidate prosecutors and interfere with their work.