Israel's Supreme Court Chief Slams Police Decision to Nix Human Trafficking Force

Dorit Beinisch spoke during hearing on High Court of Justice petition against closure by chairman of Knesset subcommittee for the battle against trafficking in women, and Kav La'oved and Hotline for Migrant Workers organizations.

The Israel Police should reconsider its decision to shut down the force that deals with human trafficking, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said yesterday, adding that she could not understand the move.

Beinisch's remarks came during a hearing on a High Court of Justice petition brought against the closure by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset subcommittee for the battle against trafficking in women, and the Kav La'oved and Hotline for Migrant Workers organizations.

Beinisch- Daniel Bar-On
Daniel Bar-On

At issue was the decision three months ago by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino to close the Saar unit ("Saar" is a Hebrew acronym for human trafficking, exploitation and fraud). Danino planned to open a new department within the National Economic Crime Squad to handle cases deemed particularly significant, while transfering most of the responsibilities for such cases to the central units of the various police districts, which would assign investigators to human trafficking cases, among their many assignments.

"There's a move here that's hard to understand," Beinisch said during the hearing. "This is an issue of the highest order. It's not clear what's behind this decision."

Justice Edna Arbel also expressed her displeasure with the move.

"It took years to appreciate the sensitivity of this issue and the need to specially train people to deal with it," Arbel said. "You can't disperse the handling of this issue throughout the country and to all the police precincts, where [the officers] have no specialized training for it."

Beinisch ordered another hearing on the matter. She said she would summon Danino and perhaps the head of the Investigations and Intelligence Branch, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich, to the hearing to explain the decision.

Government attorney Dina Zilber defended the move, saying that while police plan to change the way these cases are handled, the changes will not adversely affect the enforcement and prevention activities relating to migrant workers and human trafficking.

Beinisch wasn't convinced. "It means that dealing with this issue is dropping as a priority," she said. "All the functionaries appeared before the Knesset and all felt the same way. It took years for us to understand this crime. We delayed dealing with it because we didn't understand human trafficking and we didn't realize its scope."

"It's true that managing the police is the prerogative of the police commissioner and our ability to intervene is limited," Beinisch said. "But when the court sees a problem, isn't it worth rethinking the issue?"