Knesset: Select police interrogations can continue without being videotaped

18-month extension reflected a compromise that committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky reached with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

June 24, 2015 03:50
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The Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday extended for another 18 months an exemption for police from videotaping the interrogations of certain security detainees.

The move came after a 7-4 vote, but committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky slammed the government for “disrespecting” the panel.

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According to Slomiansky, the government had years to come up with a new legal framework for addressing the issue in a way that balanced security concerns with detainee rights, but failed to make progress and shamelessly asked for a five-year extension right before the existing exemption was to expire.

The 18-month extension reflected a compromise that Slomiansky reached with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who, along with Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri and other government officials, pushed hard to maintain the exemption.

Supporters say the exemption is necessary to avoid videotapes from falling into the wrong hands, something that could endanger interrogators, reduce detainees’ willingness to cooperate, and expose interrogation techniques.

A long line of critics has slammed the exemption as illegal or even dangerous to democracy. They include Joint List MKs Osama Sa’adi and Joseph Jabarin, Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On, Labor MK Revital Swid, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Adalah-Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Israel Democracy Institute and others.

The exemption’s previous extension came in 2012. In 2013, the High Court of Justice decided not to rule on its constitutionality in order to give the Knesset until July 2015 to present a new legal framework.

The latest extension is likely to prompt a new petition to the High Court, with critics noting that the controversy dates back to a 2002 emergency law, meaning the issue has been kicked down the road for 13 years.

A bill to make the exemption permanent is under consideration by the Knesset.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has a total exemption from videotaping interrogations.

The issue has not been seriously questioned since 2013, when former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin called for videotaping.

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