Israel's Justice Minister Plans Bill Enshrining Suspects' Rights in Basic Law

Legislation promoted by Minister Gideon Sa'ar also aims to reduce burden on courts by decriminalizing minor offenses

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Minister Gideon Sa'ar (left) and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit (center) at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, last month.
Minister Gideon Sa'ar (left) and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit (center) at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, last month.Credit: Emil Salman

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar is promoting legislation that would codify the rights of suspects and defendants in a basic law.

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The legislation, which is being advanced in coordination with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, would take all the laws aimed at protecting those undergoing legal proceedings and incorporate them into a basic law on legal rights, which would give them a constitutional status that would be difficult to change.

Sa’ar has asked the deputy attorney general for criminal affairs, Amit Marari, to draft the bill. The legislation requires the approval of all the coalition party heads, as stipulated in the coalition agreements regarding basic laws.

The law is expected to include protection of the right of people to approach the courts; the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a final judgment; the rights of detainees; and the principle that punishment cannot be imposed without warning that someone is committing an offense. It is also expected to include the right to a fair trial and the state’s duty to respect the rights under the Basic Law.

Sa’ar’s office said that the list of laws to be incorporated has not yet been completed and that once the law is in place it should reduce the burden on the courts.

“Our legal system must be ‘decriminalized’ for minor offenses, and many criminal offenses should be converted into misdemeanors punishable by fines,” Sa'ar said. “Such a move will reduce the courts’ workload and enable them to deal more effectively with serious offenses and serious crimes.”

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