Justice Ministry Official: Shin Bet Interrogator Likely to Face Charges

Although hundreds of complaints about torture have been filed against the agency, this is the first time one has led to a criminal investigation and likely indictment

Director of the Ministry of Justice Emi Palmor.
City of Be'er Sheva

Justice Ministry Director General Emi Palmor said Saturday that the ministry will “presumably” issue its first-ever criminal indictment against an agent of the Shin Bet security service for an offense committed in the field. Palmor was speaking at a program of culture and current events in Be’er Sheva. She said the investigation, which was reported in Haaretz last week, “is the first case that will be translated, presumably, into an indictment.”

The criminal investigation began last year and concerns a field interrogation in 2015. That means the alleged offense presumably took place in a location other than a Shin Bet facility.

The opening of a criminal investigation against a Shin Bet agent requires the approval of not only the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of Shin Bet agents and the ministry’s department for investigating police officers, but also that of the attorney general.

Two sources told Haaretz that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit was consulted. It is also known that the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, the main organization in Israel that deals with this issue, did not file the complaint that led to the criminal investigation. It is possible that the complaint was submitted by a member of Israel’s security forces.

The department for investigating Shin Bet agents was under the Shin Bet until 2013, when it was reassigned to the Justice Ministry and reorganized. At Saturday’s event in Be’er Sheva, Palmor was asked about the department’s independence.

“I can’t say what the Shin Bet did in the past, but I can say that it is an independent unit that was removed from the Shin Bet,” she said. “It is within the Justice Ministry and is headed by a very serious and professional individual.” She added that the head of the department and its investigators are fluent in Arabic.

Last year Haaretz reported that from 2009-16, the department received hundreds of complaints about prohibited torture during interrogations (the majority came from Palestinians, and a few from Jewish Israelis), and since 2001 the Public Committee Against Torture has also filed thousands of complaints. However, until now, not one has led to a criminal investigation or trial.