Israel High Court Stops Probe of Police Internal Investigations Unit

Petitioners argued that Amir Ohana’s measure was a ploy to gain votes from Ethiopian Israelis in the upcoming election

Josh Breiner
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Israel's Public Security Amir Ohana takes part in Jerusalem Day celebrations near the old city walls, on May 21, 2020.
Israel's Public Security Amir Ohana takes part in Jerusalem Day celebrations near the old city walls, on May 21, 2020.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP
Josh Breiner

Following a drawn out legal process, Israel's High Court of Justice on Wednesday struck down a directive to review Israel's police misconduct investigation unit. The order, issued by Netanyahu ally, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, during his term as justice minister, was accused of being politically motivated to secure votes for Likud in the March 2020 election.

In rejecting the order, the court granted the petition of private citizens including the organization Guardians of Israeli Democracy. The petition states that Ohana’s order was motivated by a desire to attract the votes of Ethiopian Israelis in the March 2020 election, in the wake of public outrage following the murder of Solomon Teka, an unarmed Ethiopian teenager, by a police officer.

The petition was one of two opposing Ohana and the government's order to appoint a panel in response to complaints that the Justice Ministry department was not fulfilling its functions. In early 2020, Ohana named three members to the panel, including a former magistrate’s court judge.

In a departure from protocol, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit declined to defend Ohana’s position and instead supported the petitioners, allowing the minister to retain his own legal representation. The High Court of Justice then suspended the panel’s activities, and rebuked Ohana and the cabinet for not respecting Mendelblit’s opposition to establishing the panel prior to the March 2020 election.

The attorney general reiterated his support for the petitions, citing a “concrete danger” that the decision to set up the panel less than a month before the election in March of last year had an ulterior motive and was inappropriate.

After the cabinet ignored five requests from the court to submit its response to the petitions, the three justices reviewing the case permanently froze the panel’s activities, revoked Ohana's order, and ordered the government to pay the petitioners’ legal fees. "The wheels of justice are turning, albeit slowly. The court once again has demonstrated to the government that it cannot act unlawfully. In Israel, the rule of law prevails and applies to all, including elected officials,” Guardians of Democracy said in a statement after the ruling.