Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Wednesday sharply criticized the manner in which an Israeli Arab human rights group chose to respond to a Police Investigations Department report explaining why it had closed the files on all 13 shooting deaths in the October 2000 riots, but said it would take its findings into consideration.
On October 15, Adalah, the Legal Center for the Rights of the Arab Minority in Israel, published a report blasting the investigations department, calling on the government to suspend those of its members who were involved in the allegedly negligent and insincere investigations to reopen all 13 files and indict the suspects in each and every case.
On the same day, Adalah, the Committee of the Victims' Families, and the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee held a press conference and sharply criticized the government for failing to find the policemen who fired the fatal shots.
The department's report, which was issued on September 2005 and closed all 13 files on grounds of insufficient evidence, triggered harsh criticism, not only from Adalah but from many other Jewish and Arab groups.
A few days after it had been issued, Mazuz announced that he was appointing Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan to examine the report.
In the meantime, Adalah asked Mazuz to hand over all the evidence compiled by the Or Judicial Commission of Inquiry. The commission found that the police had not been justified in any of the shooting deaths and that the Police Investigations Department should investigate each case again. Mazuz agreed to hand over the material and asked Adalah whether it intended to appeal the report. If so, he added, Nitzan would wait for the appeal and examine the allegations included in it as part of his own investigation of the report. Mazuz wrote a second letter asking the same thing the following month.
In his letter on Wednesday, Mazuz charged that Adalah had not replied to either letter. "Instead," continued Mazuz, "you chose to hand over your own report in which you presented sharp and absolute facts and conclusions, as opposed to an appeal against the Police Investigations Department decision. Along with the publication of the report, you held a press conference in which [speakers] made - in addition to legitimate criticism - harsh and unacceptable statements."
Mazuz was referring to statements by Hassan Assalah, the head of the bereaved families group, describing the Israeli government as a "junta which proves each day that it is the most fascist and racist in history." Assalah also said that the Arab community would continue to "pursue the criminals who killed our martyrs. This is the obligation of the coming generations until they are punished."
Mazuz accused Adalah of taking the path it did for "publicity reasons or to appeal directly to public opinion. In doing so, it "bypassed the acceptable ways which the law has determined to investigate events such as these."
In a response to Mazuz's letter, Adalah wrote that it could not appeal against the report to State Attorney Eran Shendar because Shendar was head of the Police Investigations Department during the riots.
One of the key points in the Adalah report was that Shendar had failed to investigate the shooting deaths immediately after they had happened. In calling for the immediate suspension of all members of the investigations department involved in the alleged failure to properly investigate the killings, Shendar was at the top of Adalah's list.
Adalah also said it could not trust Mazuz after he had expressed full support for the department after its report was published last year.