'Don't disband Turkel commission'

State asks High Court to reject Gush Shalom petition.

By DAN IZENBERG
July 12, 2010 03:24
1 minute read.
retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head

Turkel 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The state asked the High Court of Justice on Sunday to reject a petition by the left-wing political movement Gush Shalom calling for the dissolution of the government- appointed Turkel Commission to examine the May 31 flotilla seizure by the IDF and replace it with a state commission of inquiry.

In its final response before Tuesday’s court hearing, the state wrote that the petitioners are now arguing that the problem with the commission is that it lacks the power to summon soldiers and other security officers to testify before it.

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Last week, the government agreed to expand the powers of the commission to include the right to subpoena witnesses, order them to bring documents or other evidence before the commission, have them testify under oath and the right to question witnesses abroad.

However, the commission’s added prerogatives do not include the right to question soldiers and security officers.

In its response, the state argued that there is also a military committee, headed by Maj.- Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, which was appointed to conduct an investigation of the operational aspects of the seizure of the Mavi Marmara and six other boats headed for the Gaza Strip.

The Turkel Commission will be given the summaries of all the investigations conducted by the Eiland Committee. If it feels it needs more information, it is entitled to ask the Eiland Committee to investigate the soldiers and security officers to obtain the information it needs.

"There is great importance in keeping the rule which says that investigations of fighters regarding their role in operational actions are conducted in the framework of a military debriefings and nothing else. The rule is meant to guarantee that soldiers will talk as openly as possible… It is vital to make sure they do not hesitate and that they will speak freely about the operations in which they participated,” the state’s response said.

The head of Gush Shalom, Uri Avnery, reacted, saying that “the principle of the sanctity of the military debriefing as described by the government is an absolutely new argument. Nothing like it has ever been said in Israel’s history and, as far as I know, in the history of any other nation."

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