Israel's Public Security Minister Demands Power to Order Administrative Detentions

Yitzhak Aharonovitch wants the right to act against gangsters for up to five years.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Tuesday reiterated his demand to be empowered to issue administrative detention orders against organized crime suspects for up to five years.

As the minister of public security, Aharonovitch wrote in a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, "I am keenly aware of the serious implications of the recent events involving various organized crime organizations, primarily the attempted murder of a senior prosecutor from the Tel Aviv District Office."

Aharonovitch also urged Weinstein for the power to order suspected gangsters to be forced to stay away from certain areas. “These events led to risks to the public in public places and moreover, they included a real attempt to injure and intimidate authorities who deal with law enforcement in the State of Israel. At times like these we need exceptional methods such as administrative detention orders .. in order to eradicate serious crime,” wrote Aharonovitch.

Using such powers would detract from individual rights, Aharonovitch said, hence his proposal is to limit such orders in time, and to resort to them only in extreme cases, under the supervision of representatives of the Attorney General, who would vet every request made by the police.

Herdid not however repeat what he said two weeks ago: “Enough with the hypocrisy and those human rights organizations - the issue will be examined from a public standpoint,” Aharonovitch said in an address to the annual journalists’ conference. Instead he wrote to Weinstein that he was aware that detention and limiting freedom of movement by administrative order without trial, on the basis of confidential information, could conflict with a number of rights - and so he was proposing to use such tools in a measured and considered fashion.

Administrative detention allows people to be jailed without trial (though it does require a court’s confirmation), on the basis of intelligence indicating that they are a danger to the public. However, the tactic is currently legal only against suspected security threats, so Aharonovitch’s plan could require new legislation. It seems Aharonovitch hopes Weinstein will approach the defense minister, who has emergency authority to issue such orders in cases of public and national security matters, and have the Defense Minister issue the orders. In addition, he also wants Weinstein to prepare legislation to allow the defense minister to delegate such authority also to Aharonovitch.

Weinstein’s position has been that such authority is too far-reaching; he has also stated that he does not intend to approve such new powers. This is also the position of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.