A female police officer is suing the Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct over humiliation she endured during the sexual misconduct investigation of the former commander of the Jerusalem District Police, Maj. Gen. Nisso Shaham.
In the summer of 2012, the Justice Ministry unit, known by its Hebrew acronym Mahash, phoned Shira (not her real name) and summoned her to give testimony. Her name had come up in communications data obtained by the unit as someone who had had frequent contact with Shaham.
Shira told them she was on sick leave and could not come in. A few days later, the Mahash investigators came to the station where Shira worked and showed her picture to various police personnel, asking if they knew her whereabouts. They waited for her in the station dining room.
Instead of taking her somewhere private to speak, the investigators confronted Shira – who was being considered as a potential victim of sexual harassment – in a public space. Furthermore, it was public knowledge that Shaham was being investigated for sexual misconduct.
After the initial public contact in the police station dining room, the head of the investigative team, Superintendent Shahar Hamadi, contacted Shira’s supervisor and told him that she had been summoned for questioning at the unit.
The station commander responded that he understood that this was about Shaham. “It was a short road [from that conversation] to leaks and rumors," the attorneys wrote.
Shira is the third female police officer who is suing Mahash over the humiliation they say they endured during questioning about Shaham. Shira’s suit, which was filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, is demanding 1.5 million shekels ($427,140) in damages.
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Last year the two other policewomen filed suits, which are still in court, totaling 3 million shekels.
Four days after Shira was first contacted, she came to the Justice Ministry unit’s office to give testimony. As the transcript reveals, she admitted to the investigators that she had engaged in consensual relations with Shaham ten years prior. She insisted that Shaham had not harassed her.
“Can you say how many times you had sex?” she was asked during questioning.
When Shira said she could not remember because it had been so long ago, the investigators kept on, insisting that it would have been "a significant event in the life of a young girl. Or not. It could have just been another one along the way… You tell me."
The investigators asked Shira what led her to have a sexual relationship with Shaham, who is decades her senior. She was asked: “Could it be that the fact of a physical relationship helped you move to another job?”
Shira denied that this was the case, adding that it was an insult to her work ethic and professionalism.
From there, the questioning went further downhill. According to Shira, they asked her irrelevant and invasive questions, such as whether Shaham had used a condom, whether he had ejaculated, whether she had climaxed, and what form the sex took.
The suit states that although she specifically said she had not been harassed, Shira underwent "harsh and humiliating questioning… and was asked intrusive, embarrassing and disturbing questions” that had nothing to do with evidence and were of a "painfully voyeuristic nature lacking all professional meaning.”
Shaham was accused of fraud, breach of trust and acting in conflict of interest when discussing matters related to female police personnel with whom he had engaged in consensual sexual relations.
The magistrate’s court cleared him of those charges, but an appeal by the prosecution is still pending before the district court.
Last month, seven years after she was questioned, Shira decided to sue Mahash. Among other things, the suit cites “accusations and threats directed against her during questioning,” and that the investigators “disrespected her as a human being, and all the more so as a potential victim of sexual offenses.”
The suit also claims that the invasive questions were themselves a form of sexual harassment, based on the law against sexual harassment that defines the offense as humiliation toward a person with regard to his sex or sexuality.
The prosecution confirmed that the suit was filed and that “it would be answered in court as is the accepted practice.”