State Won't Reveal How Many Palestinians Are Questioned by Shin Bet Without a Lawyer

The number of Palestinians under questioning by the Shin Bet security service who are not permitted to meet with an attorney is a state secret, the State Prosecutor's Office told the High Court of Justice last week.

The statement was made in response to a petition by the human rights group Yesh Din, which wants the court to order the Shin Bet to reveal the data. The court will now deliberate the petition.

The petition, which was also filed by the Movement for Freedom of Information, notes that the focus is not the Shin Bet's procedures in its interrogations. The petitioners say they do not oppose the procedure that prevents meetings between suspects and their lawyers.

They say their only interest is the Shin Bet's refusal to make public limited information on the use of that procedure. The petitioners say the data on people arrested may shed light on human-rights violations.

They say that only public supervision will enable an examination of whether the Shin Bet is inappropriately using a narrow advantage in the laws on security that were meant for extraordinary cases.

The petitioners add that uncovering the extent to which this unusual procedure is used would spark a public debate. The unsupervised use of a procedure that limits such a fundamental right can only be allowed if figures are released, they say.

A former military prosecutor who was interviewed by Yesh Din's head of research, Lior Yavne, estimates that about 60 percent of the Palestinians questioned by the Shin Bet lose their right to meet with an attorney.

Military laws in the West Bank allow Shin Bet officers to prevent, through a warrant, a meeting between a prisoner and a lawyer for no more than 30 days.