Justice Ministry oversight 'czar' files 2nd annual report

The office was founded in late 2013 to improve performance in the Justice Ministry and increase public faith in law enforcement.

February 8, 2016 05:56
2 minute read.
Avichai Mandelblit

Avichai Mandelblit. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Hila Gristol, the first head of a Justice Ministry department that oversees and critiques around 3,400 state prosecutors’ and advisory lawyers’ decisions, has completed her second annual report summarizing her efforts, due to be published early on Monday.

The office was founded in late 2013 to improve performance in the Justice Ministry and increase public faith in law enforcement.

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Gristol sent the report to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who has some powers over her division.

She will wade into the controversy between her office and the state’s prosecutors – a war that hampered her work throughout Mandelblit’s predecessor Yehuda Weinstein’s term and which is still unresolved.

The oversight “czar” described ongoing difficulties as the prosecutors united against the evaluation process.

Many of the prosecutors went on strike for 43 days, and there is a boycott of her office that continues even now, demanding that the Knesset pass legislation anchoring in law changes to her powers recommended by former Supreme Court justice and mediator Eliezer Goldberg.

The prosecutors say that Gristol’s current powers could lead to intimidating them from going after public corruption.

Gristol tried to portray her department’s work as successful despite the strike.

She said that her office’s oversight has already caused prosecutors nationwide to elevate their performance, correct deficiencies, strive for greater consistency in the handling of cases, and improve record-keeping.

The report reveals a staggering 96 percent growth in complaints filed against the prosecution and related bodies, with an average of 45 per month in 2015 compared to the 23 per month in 2014.

Out of 535 complaints relating to specific cases, only 21 were found justified, though that is still a jump from 2014, when only three were found justified.

Examples of justified complaints included prosecutors acting in a conflict of interest, and extended failures to notify suspects of the closing of a murder case against them 17.5 years after the incident.

The report said that the department addressed about 84% of the 2015 complaints before the end of the year.

It rejected 40% out of hand, froze handling of 29% where the complainant did not follow up or for various jurisdictional or procedural reasons, and obtained a number of clarifications from the Justice Ministry to resolve other cases.

The Justice Ministry did not respond to the report or its findings.

Although it had responded to some of Gristol’s earliest reports, it has not responded since the recent increased level of tension over her criticism of State Attorney Shai Nitzan’s handling of a forensic dispute in the Tair Rada murder case.

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