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State: Body for probing Shin Bet active since January
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
07/03/2014
This is the first time the state has publicly acknowledged the status of the new unit, and it has not been previously reported.
 
The Justice Ministry’s new unit for investigating complaints against Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) interrogators became fully operational as of January, the state told the High Court of Justice in a protocol that The Jerusalem Post has obtained.

The statement was made on Monday in the context of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel’s petition to the High Court to compel the state to open an investigation into complaints of alleged torture. It was the state’s first public statement about the status of the new unit, and has not been previously reported.

In 2007, the Justice Ministry investigated the Shin Bet’s self-investigations and found that the head of these was likely motivated to cover-up for his colleagues, and was not qualified or trained to properly conduct inquiries into the complaints.

The state had recommended moving probes of the Shin Bet into the Justice Ministry under the authority of the Police Investigation Department as early as 2010.

Following that, the ministry engaged in a lengthy process to address the issue. However, with no change by February 2013, the quasi-government- sponsored Turkel Commission’s second report on Israel’s apparatus for investigating itself echoed the point that investigations of the Shin Bet had to be performed by an outside, more independent unit, preferably in the Justice Ministry.

In June 2013, the ministry announced the appointment of former Military Advocate- General head prosecutor Col. (res.) Jana Modgavrishvili as the first head of the new unit.

Yet the Post learned recently that the unit was still not fully operational due to standard bureaucratic obstacles, such as hiring personnel and finding office space.

The state mentioned these issues to the High Court, noting, among other things, that appropriate office space was not a minor issue, since the unit would regularly be handling highly sensitive classified material.

Next, the state mentioned that lawyers arguing before the High Court had discussed the petition before it in November 2013, but that Modgavrishvili said she still had nowhere to work.
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