The Justice Ministry’s Department of Legislation on Tuesday officially approved
and publicly distributed recommendations for far-reaching changes to the
A commission of legal experts that the ministry had
appointed submitted a report with recommendations on the changes in August 2011.
The recommendations received approval after several rounds of debate between
different arms of the Justice Ministry, as well as the Attorney-General’s
Office, to ensure that all relevant issues and perspectives were
Leading the commission that submitted the initial report was
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Then-justice
minister Daniel Friedmann appointed the commission in 2007 after years of
criticism of the old law, which culminated in criticism from then-Supreme Court
president Aharon Barak in a well-known 2006 decision.
The law has
remained unchanged since the British Mandate.
Under the existing law,
unlawful killing can fall under three categories: murder, manslaughter and
causing death by negligence. While a murder conviction carries a mandatory life
sentence, manslaughter receives a much lighter sentence of up to 20 years in
However, to convict someone of murder, prosecutors must prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that even the most brutal and unprovoked killing was
The drastic and undesired implications of that law became
clear in the legal storm that swept the country following the manslaughter
conviction of three Jaljulya men who brutally beat and kicked Arik Karp to death
on a Tel Aviv beach.
In a highly publicized decision in July 2011, the
Tel Aviv District Court convicted Karp’s killers – Jamil Ades, Abed al- Rahman
Ades and a minor who cannot be named – of manslaughter rather than murder, after
judges ruled that the prosecution had not proven beyond all reasonable doubt
that the killing had been intentional.
Legal experts have said that under
the proposed new legislation, Karp’s three killers would likely be convicted of
murder, since the proposed legislation replaces the old murder charge definition
with a new hierarchy of murder charges.
The first level, called the basic
murder charge, includes two degrees of murder, the first being premeditated
The second-degree murder charge would include spur-of-the-moment
killings in which the perpetrators did not care whether the victim lived or
Legal experts have said that the second-degree murder charge would
fit the Karp case.
The proposed system also includes a charge of murder
with aggravating circumstances, which would allow a judge to impose a life
sentence, although a life sentence would not necessarily be
Acts of terror would also fall under this category, as would
the murder of a minor or public official, murders connected with sex crimes and
racially motivated murders.
The proposed law also recommends removing the
charge of manslaughter completely and replacing it with two new offenses:
killing in circumstances of reduced liability, including after prolonged abuse
or in self-defense; and causing death by negligence.
With the justice
minister’s approval of the new legislation, it is expected to be presented to
the Knesset.Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.