Israel Police patrol car [File].
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Public Defender’s Office published its annual report on Sunday, submitting it to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
The report notes a number of deficiencies in the criminal justice system, including too many indictments, police brutality and the violation of suspects’ rights.
To many indictments are filed on issues of minor importance or against poor persons who violate rules to obtain basic needs such as food, electricity or water or who infiltrate abandoned public housing, it says.
The report cites one example where a defendant was criminally indicted merely for throwing gravel at another person.
Most defendants still either are not informed by the police of their right to get advice from a lawyer prior to interrogation or do not get to receive that advice, it claims.
Next, the report accuses the police of undertaking a large number of unauthorized strip searches of suspects, where the circumstances clearly did not warrant such an invasive measure.
In addition, the report says that the police is engaging in far too much violence against the citizenry and that far too few complaints of police violence are properly investigated.
As an example, it notes that 2,451 investigations were opened against citizens for attacking policemen, and 1,451 investigations were opened for attacking policemen in aggravated circumstances.
In contrast, the Public Defender’s Office, a unit within the Justice Ministry, said that out of 304 complaints it referred to the ministry’s Police Investigations Department, only six have led to indictments.
This and other evidence have led to an assessment that the PID ignores the vast majority of complaints against police for attacking citizens.
While this may make sense for some complaints from real criminals looking to obfuscate their crimes, the report indicated the number of indictments was too low for that explanation to hold across the board.
Further, the Public Defender’s Office wrote that there is a problem with structural obstacles to obtaining a retrial for persons who were wrongly convicted due to an imperfect system, missing evidence or other causes.
Another issue the report touches on is allegations that suspects or defendants with psychiatric issues are held in cruel conditions, including being tied to their beds where the circumstances do not necessarily warrant such an extreme measure.
An issue which has gotten more attention recently and also comes up in the report is the problematic delay and weaknesses in the system for providing rehabilitation and other treatments to minor-offenders who could be set straight or become worse offenders.
On the occasion of marking the office’s 20th anniversary, the report also recounts the office’s achievements and major changes.
Neither the Justice Ministry nor the police responded to the report.
The country’s top public defender, Yoav Sapir, said his office for 20 years has “defended the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. Sapir also cited his office’s transformation into a major player in the formation of state policy toward defendants and prisoners, while noting “a range of substantial problems” which he hoped will be solved soon.