olmert winograd 298.88.
(photo credit: GPO)
The Winograd Committee on the Second Lebanon War began publishing the first protocols of its hearings Thursday night, including the testimony of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, following a ruling handed down earlier in the day by the High Court of Justice.
The protocols of the hearings of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz will be released next week, according to the ruling.
A task force of military censors is currently reading over the material to determine which parts must be omitted for reasons of national security.
The court ruling came in response to a petition by Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On demanding that the Olmert, Peretz and Halutz protocols be released before the Winograd Committee publishes its interim report into the government's handling of the war.
The panel has said it will publish that report in the second half of April. During the High Court hearing, the head of the three-justice panel, Supreme Court Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin, charged that the committee had virtually been in contempt of court for not publishing a single protocol.
In response to an earlier petition from Gal-On, the High Court ruled on February 6 that in light of the importance of the public's right to know, "the committee will take steps to release those parts of the protocols that may be made public in a reasonable amount of time and before it submits the [interim] report to the government."
After a month went by and no protocols were released, Gal-On petitioned the High Court again, this time demanding that the protocols of the hearings with Olmert, Peretz and Halutz be released before publication of the interim report.
During Thursday's hearing, the state's representative, attorney Osnat Mandel, told the court the petition was superfluous because the state had already announced it would publish the protocols before the interim report is released.
Rivlin sharply disagreed. "This is a kind of contempt of court," he told Mandel, referring to the earlier decision to publish the protocols in a reasonable amount of time.
Rivlin went even farther than the petitioner's request. Gal-On had asked that the protocols be released before the interim report was published some time after April 15. But in his ruling, Rivlin wrote that the protocols must be published before the end of March.