The High Court of Justice struck down a petition to compel the Shin Bet (Israel
Security Agency) to record all interrogations, disregarding recommendations from
the recent Turkel Commission report and former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, human
rights groups announced late Saturday night.
The decision was handed down
on Thursday and struck down the petition, but did not dismiss it. This means
that the petition can be refiled at a later date, as the basis for rejecting the
petition was procedural, rather than deciding the merits of the issue in
The High Court was actually hearing two petitions, filed by
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and other human
rights groups, one pertaining to the Shin Bet and another requesting the court
strike a provision exempting the police from recording interrogations of certain
security suspects in a 2002 law regarding interrogating suspects.
essentially that the issue was premature, the High Court cited that the Justice
Ministry had recently committed to the Knesset to analyze the issue in July
2012, and that it should be given time to do so.
Also, the court noted
that the Knesset had just recently extended the law dispute through July 5,
2015, and that it would essentially disrespect the Knesset to intervene before
that date, which the court implied was not that far off.
Next, the court
noted that a new Knesset was about to convene and that deference on such major
policy issues should be given to the new Knesset, should it wish to address the
The ruling, however, lay in stark contrast to the
recommendations of both the Turkel Commission’s second report, published
Wednesday, and to those of former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin.
Commission, chaired by former justice Jacob Turkel, and viewed with tremendous
respect and considered objective by Israel’s top legal officials, said in
Recommendation 15 that “there should be a full video recording of all Shin Bet
interrogations, according to guidelines set by the attorney-general in
coordination with the Shin Bet.”
In the commission’s report, it also
quoted Diskin as saying that “even if not everyone always likes it, I think it
These powerful recommendations augmented Adalah’s various
The human rights group had argued that fundamental rights were
being violated, as it said suspects were being abused or tortured, but there
could be no effective investigation without video recordings.
It had also
said that the tactics used by the Shin Bet led to false confessions by suspects
and wrong intelligence, as sometimes suspects merely confirmed what they were
asked to confirm in order to be released sooner and avoid
Responding to the court’s striking of its petition, Adalah
highlighted that the 2002 law was labeled an “emergency law” at the time and has
been extended multiple times for a period of years, leaving it in place for at
least 13 years by the extension to 2015.
Adalah said that this made a
farce of the idea that it was an emergency law, and of the High Court calling
intervening “premature,” when the petition was filed in 2010, and the Knesset
waited until July 2012 to extend the law again.
In other words, Adalah
said, calling intervening “premature” was ignoring the 13 years of history and
pretending that the issue had been raised in July 2012 for the first
The Shin Bet responded that there could be no video recordings
because eventually the recordings would become case evidence and end up in the
hands of the terrorists.
“We cannot disrespect our adversary. It is very
sophisticated and knows how to learn and it can learn how to handle the Shin Bet
and its abilities. It can learn our interrogation methods,” the state attorney
told the court on behalf of the Shin Bet.
The state attorney also added
that the argument that there is no recording of interrogations is false, as all
interrogations are recorded in writing.
He said that recordings in
writing protected suspects’ rights as well as avoided the pitfalls of giving
away interrogation tactics.
The court itself, in describing the Knesset’s
extension process, noted that the state had only asked for a two-year extension
and that the Knesset had given it three years of its own initiative, implying
that the Knesset wanted to give the Justice Ministry time to better classify
which interrogations could be recorded and which could not.
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