Retired Judge Hila Gerstl is resigning as prosecutorial oversight commissioner, in light of her objections to proposed legislation that she contends will weaken the position, and because of the ongoing battle by prosecutors against publication of her conclusions. She will stay on for three months until a replacement is found.
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The bill being formulated by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked provides for the oversight commission to remain in its current format for a year, while the following year it will be split into two agencies, with the oversight work to be absorbed by an internal Justice Ministry body.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back for Gerstl, apparently, was the petition to the High Court of Justice brought by 11 prosecutors against the publication of a report she had written about the Abu Kabir Institute for Forensic Medicine. Gerstl had asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit that she be represented by an attorney from outside the state system, but Mendelblit insisted that she be represented by a lawyer of his choosing. Also, the two could not agree on a joint response to the petition, and will be submitting separate responses.
Prosecutors recently ended a two-week strike — not the first — over their opposition to the commission’s oversight, ending it only after receiving a Justice Ministry commitment that Gerstl’s criticism focus only on systemic issues and would not name individual prosecutors.
In her announcement, Gerstl recalled how for years prosecutors had fought bitterly against the formation of the commission, which provided a forum for complaints about prosecutors’ negligence or incompetence. “But despite the vast opposition, the commission is operating and is very effective,” she said.
Shaked expressed regret at Gerstl’s resignation, but added, “It’s no secret that there have recently been difficulties and misunderstandings between the head of the oversight commission and the prosecution.”