Israeli Justice Minister Proposes Plan to Expand Supervision of Prosecutors, Attorney General

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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset, February 8, 2016.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset, February 8, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday distributed a memorandum concerning new legislation which, if passed by the Knesset, would alter the status of the commission that oversees the work of the State Prosecutor’s Office. The proposal would, on an experimental basis at first, expand the oversight of both the prosecution as an institution and the conduct of individual prosecutors.

Currently a retired judge, Hila Gerstel, fulfills these functions. Under the new law, she would continue to do so for a year after it is enacted, but the following year, the oversight duties would be split, with supervision of the prosecution as a whole to be handled internally, and reported to the attorney general, while Gerstel would continue to monitor the conduct of the individual prosecutors. After the second year, the justice minister would decide whether to continue the pilot plan. In any case, the attorney general would also be subject to oversight, which is not the case at present.

With respect to the conduct of and possible public complaints against an individual prosecutor, the new law would guarantee the latter's right to a hearing, to counsel in any proceedings against them and, under certain circumstances, immunity.

Shaked’s proposal is the result of considerable debate at the Justice Ministry recently over Judge Gerstel’s work as commissioner – a post created by the cabinet, not the Knesset.

The workers committee that represents the prosecutors has threatened to strike or to refuse to cooperate with Gerstel’s office if it continues to be responsible for the oversight of both the prosecution system and the individuals.

Some sources in the ministry claim that splitting the commissioner's functions would weaken oversight; associates of Gerstel have said that she might resign if the change is instituted. It’s not clear how the parties involved would respond to the legislation, which in essence defers the final decision on oversight duties by two years.

For her part, Minister Shaked says the bill would strike a balance among the interests and concerns of the parties involved and would permit a serious, practical examination of the alternatives.

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