Judges preside in court (Illustrative).
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Tamar Bar Asher Tzavan has declared the Prisons Service policy of strip searching all detainees before their incarceration illegal. The ruling came in the context of a civil lawsuit by a right-wing activist for damages due to the search imposed on him.
The court granted plaintiff Hanomel Dorfman, who was under the age of 18 when arrested and strip-searched, NIS 10,000 in compensation and another NIS 18,000 reimbursement for legal fees to his lawyer and well-known right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Dorfman, whose activist background includes restraining orders from entering certain West Bank areas, was detained in Jerusalem in 2012 close to the date set for the evacuation of the illegally constructed Migron outpost.
After questioning, it was decided to detain Dorfman pending further investigation.
The detention, though temporary, involved a then standard strip search, including what Ben-Gvir called “humiliating bending over positions,” despite his opposition.
The state and the Prisons Service argued that regulations required the strip search of any detainee to ensure that no dangerous items were smuggled into the prison.
Tzavan rejected this argument, saying the service “had to exercise discretion” and have “reasonable cause” to strip-search a detainee and could not strip-search all detainees automatically as a matter of policy.
She added that “it was in great doubt” whether such a policy, as the Prisons Service understood it, could be consistent with the country’s fundamental constitutional principles regarding “the honor and dignity of man.”
Rather, the court said that the service sometimes should suffice with a search which allows a detainee to keep their underpants on, and sometimes with a full body-search that requires no removal of clothing.
The court also criticized the service for not holding the required hearing when a detainee expressed the wish not to be strip-searched.
The Prisons Service said it “would review the decision,” but did not say whether it would accept the ruling or appeal the court’s declaration that its policy was illegal.