Shaked compromise plan on Justice Ministry oversight czar recommends 2-year pilot program

The union of state prosecutors has fought resolutely against the oversight czar, Hila Gerstl, claiming that she is weakening their independence.

February 29, 2016 22:08
2 minute read.
Hila Gristol

Hila Gristol head of prosecutorial oversight body. (photo credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday unveiled her long-awaited compromise proposal for ending a war between the state prosecutors union and the Justice Ministry’s oversight czar, an office created at the end of 2013 to promote greater accountability for prosecutorial decisions.

The union of state prosecutors has fought resolutely against the oversight czar, Hila Gerstl, claiming that she is weakening their independence, which will lead to a politicization of the prosecution and a free hand for politicians to engage in corruption.

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Gerstl and her supporters argue that her oversight does not interfere with prosecutors’ independence or their proper performing of their jobs and will only weed out rare cases of unreasonable prosecutorial delay and negligence.

Before Gerstl’s office was formed, the courts did police the prosecution’s work in a sense, but some critics said prosecutors’ power was virtually unlimited and open to abuse.

Shaked’s compromise dovetails with a proposed solution by former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg in October, while deviating on some important points.

Both Shaked and Goldberg suggested changing the current oversight czar setup by enhancing the powers of the oversight czar to cover not only prosecutors, but also the office of the attorney-general.

They both also sought to anchor the czar’s authority in more formal Knesset legislation.

Until now, the attorney- general was beyond the czar’s purview and her office operated only at the pleasure of a non-legislated agreement made by former justice minister Tzipi Livni and former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein.

Notably, The Jerusalem Post has learned that Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit endorses the Shaked proposal and was consulted on it before it was publicized, making a significant break with Weinstein’s position on the major issue.

In Mandelblit’s acceptance speech when taking office at the start of February, he alluded to his support for changes to the attorney-general’s office, but there are many such changes under debate, so it was unclear which new initiatives he would support.

Where Shaked’s bill incorporates, but also amends Goldberg’s compromise is the splitting up of the oversight powers.

Goldberg had suggested that Gerstl continue as oversight czar dealing with issues related to the conduct of individual prosecutors, while forming a separate oversight office internal to the prosecution to look at system-wide issues.

The justice minister suggested a two-year pilot program trying two different tracks of oversight, after which she would decide which to adopt.

The first year of the pilot program, Gerstl would maintain both individual and system- wide oversight functions as she currently does.

In the second year of the pilot program, system-wide oversight would move to within the prosecution as recommended by Goldberg.

Shaked’s spokeswoman added to the statement outlining the bill that it also addresses some key proposals by Goldberg put forward to specifically satisfy the concerns of the union of state prosecutors.

For example, Goldberg had suggested that complaints will mostly not be addressed “until after the complained about legal proceeding has concluded,” and complaints involving “substantive legal interpretations” or “professional discretion” will not be addressed.

The spokeswoman for Shaked said that in certain instances prosecutors would also have immunity for their actions.

There was still some missing clarity about whether the bill would block checking anonymous complaints.

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