(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday accepted a petition objecting to the appointment of a senior police officer reprimanded by the Or Commission of Inquiry for his role in the October 2000 riots to the post of secretary for internal security in the staff headquarters of the Ministry for Internal Security.
The court ruled two to one in favor of the petition, with Presiding Justice Ayala Procaccia and Justice Salim Joubran in the majority and Justice Elyakim Rubinstein in the minority.
The petition, submitted by the Committee of the Victims' Families and Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, protested the appointment of Dep.-Cdr. Benzi Sau, who was commander of the northern district border police during the 2000 riots.
The Or Commission recommended that Sau not be given a new job or promoted in rank for four years from the day of publication of its final report on September 1, 2003.
Sau was serving as head of the Jerusalem District border police when the report was published.
The police and the state argued that Sau did not receive a promotion in rank along with his new job. They also maintained that it was unrealistic to expect Sau to continue serving in the difficult and draining job of commander of the Jerusalem District border police for more than four years.
Procaccia, who wrote the main majority decision, said the court had to decide two matters. The first was whether the government was obliged to implement the recommendations of a state commission of inquiry. The second was whether or not the job change constituted a promotion for Sau.
The justice pointed out that the government had officially adopted all of the recommendations regarding all of the individuals whom the Or Commission had found to have been at fault in connection with the riots. Therefore, it was duty bound to implement all of them.
Furthermore, it had promised to consider the commission's recommendation not to appoint an active police officer to the headquarter staff of the Minister for Internal Security.
Procaccia ruled that the Or Commission recommendation not to give Sau a new job or promote him involved two separate recommendations. In other words, he was not to be given a new job and he was not to be promoted in rank before September 1, 2007. Therefore, he could not be given the ministry job.
She also concluded that taking on a job in the minister's staff headquarters was a clear advancement over his previous job.
"The move from operative and staff jobs in the police to a job involving national policy in internal security is an advancement in the eyes of any disinterested observer," wrote Procaccia. "It was certainly regarded as a substantial advancement by Dep.-Cdr. Sau himself."
Procaccia also wrote that the Or Commission recommendation to reconsider appointing active police officers to jobs in the Ministry of Internal Security was correct because such an appointment created a conflict of interests. On the one hand, the officer was supposed to provide the minister with effective means for monitoring police performance. On the other, the officer hoped to win a promotion from the minister and return to the ranks of the police.