Lebanese freed prisoner Mustafa Dirani is greeted by Hizbollah supporters during a celebrate held in Beirut's suburbs January 29, 2004..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An expanded panel of High Court justices narrowly voted 4-3 to overturn an earlier ruling that Lebanese terrorist Mustafa Dirani cannot continue his lawsuit against Israel for NIS 6 million.
It was Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis’s final decision announced at his Thursday retirement ceremony.
Justices Miriam Naor, who becomes president of the court starting Sunday, Eliyakim Rubinstein and Hanan Melcer voted in the majority to reject Dirani’s lawsuit.
Justices Yoram Danziger, Neal Hendel and Salim Jabroun (who was in the majority on the 2011 2-1 panel that voted to let the lawsuit proceed) dissented – favoring allowing the case to go forward.
Grunis said that the principle, widely recognized in other countries, that you do not give certain legal access to enemies fighting against you in a time of war, overpowered any concerns for Dirani’s rights.
He said that, “Dirani has no one to blame, but himself. It is astonishing to me” that Dirani could “act against the state and work toward its destruction” and then try to “use the state’s institutions for his needs.”
Grunis did leave open the door for Dirani to refile his lawsuit if Hezbollah and Israel were ever not at war.
Oral argument on the petition was heard in January 2013.
Dirani, a former leader of Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group Amal, was believed to have had personal knowledge of the whereabouts of kidnapped IAF navigator Lt.-Col. Ron Arad. Arad – who is still missing and presumed dead – was captured by Amal forces in October 1986 during a mission to attack PLO targets near Sidon in Lebanon. The IDF captured Dirani in 1994 and returned him to Lebanon in 2004, in a prisoner-exchange deal.
At one point in the January 2013 hearing, Rubinstein pressed Dirani’s lawyer, Zvi Rish, to name a worst-case scenario where a foreign enemy could not sue the state.
“In what case would this not come about, meaning, there would not be a right to sue?” he asked. “If [Adolf] Eichmann had been tortured and afterward he was somewhere outside of Israel and tried to sue?” Rish tried to sidestep the issue saying, “Your honor puts me in a very difficult situation, it’s a personal question. I am second-generation [survivor] from the Holocaust.”
So am I, answered Rubinstein, who persisted, asking whether there was any line that Rish would draw where a person’s actions against the state would mean he forfeited his right to sue.
Rish replied, “Even Eichmann, if he had been tortured, would have had a right to sue those who had tortured him, both criminally and civilly.”
In 1994, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered Israeli commandos to raid Dirani’s house in Lebanon.
The terrorist leader was brought to Israel and held in administrative detention.
In 2000, Dirani filed a NIS 6 million suit in the Tel Aviv District Court, charging that interrogators had raped him, sodomized him with a club, kept him naked for weeks and humiliated him in an effort to extract information about Arad’s whereabouts.
In December 2013, it was announced that Doron Zahavi was “Captain George,” the pseudonym of a former IDF investigator whose alleged actions in interrogating Dirani led to the lawsuit.
Dirani was released in 2004 as part of a prisoner swap with Hezbollah, despite a lawsuit by Arad’s family to try to prevent his release. In exchange, Hezbollah returned kidnapped Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three IDF soldiers that the terrorist organization killed in October 2000.
Dirani had announced his intention to continue to work for Hezbollah on his return to Lebanon, and the state appealed to the Tel Aviv District Court, asking for Dirani’s lawsuit to be canceled.
However, in 2005 the court rejected the state’s request to cancel the lawsuit and the state appealed to the Supreme Court.