Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Monday he would hand over all the material gathered by the Police Investigations Department regarding police conduct during the October 2000 riots to an Israeli Arab human rights group. But he rejected the groupâ€™s demand to prohibit State Attorney Eran Shendar from heading an internal examination of the PIDâ€™s findings.
After conducting a two-year investigation, the PID decided in September to close the files in the cases of 12 Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian who were shot to death by police using live or rubber bullets, without calling for a single indictment.
After the results of the PID investigation were announced, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which represents the families of the victims, demanded access to all the material collected by the investigators.
Ten days later, when the Justice Ministry announced that Shendar would reexamine the findings of the PID investigators as though an appeal had been lodged against their report, Adalah charged that the decision was illegal because Shendar headed the PID during and after the riots and many of the allegations of wrongdoing by its clients were aimed at Shendar.
On Monday, Mazuz responded to Adalahâ€™s two-pronged attack.
â€œThe investigative material regarding the October 2000 events will be made available to you, as you asked,â€ Mazuzâ€™s deputy, Ran Nizri, wrote to Adalah attorney Marwan Dalal. Nizri wrote that Adalah could start photocopying the material on October 16.
But Nizri said Mazuz â€œsaw no grounds for your claim of a substantial and obvious conflict of interestsâ€ involved in the fact that Shendarâ€™s deputy, Shai Nitzan, would be in charge of examining the report. He added, however, that Mazuz would have the last word on the State Attorneyâ€™s Officeâ€™s conclusions.
In response to Mazuzâ€™s letter, Dalal told The Jerusalem Post: â€œIt was Mazuzâ€™s duty under the law to hand over the investigation material, and we asked for it immediately after the PID report was published.â€ He reiterated that the examination â€œmust not be within the authority of the state attorney because he was head of the PID during October 2000 and bears the main responsibility for its omissions and failures to investigate the shooting deaths immediately after the events.â€
Israeli Arab leaders welcomed Mazuzâ€™s decision.
â€œThere is no doubt that this is a step in the right direction,â€ Abed Inbitawi, spokesman for the monitoring committee of the Israeli Arab leadership, told the Post. â€œIt also signifies a retreat by the attorney-general, who less than three weeks ago came out in support of the PIDâ€™s decision not to prosecute any of those involved in the killings and those behind them.â€
The monitoring committee led a public campaign to press for rejection of the PIDâ€™s report and conclusions and for a reopening of the investigation.
The measures included a hunger strike by Israeli Arab leaders, including Arab MKs, opposite the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office in Jerusalem, as well as events to commemorate the fifth anniversary of what has come to be known as the events of October.
Inbitawi said there was no doubt that these measures, coupled with the outcry from leading Jewish Israelis over the recommendations of the PID report, had led to two important decisions by Mazuz: ordering a reexamination of the case and the subsequent agreement to allow families of the victims to see the PID report.
â€œWe see these decisions as both important and positive, but there is also concern that they could be part of an attempt to try to bypass efforts to reach truth and justice,â€ he said.
â€œWe support the view of Adalah that there is a conflict of interest in that this matter will be reexamined by the State Attorneyâ€™s Office, headed by a man who was head of the PID at the time of the inquiry into the killings.
"We will use all the legal means at our disposal here in Israel to get to the truth and bring those responsible to justice, not only for the sake of the victims and their families, but also to deter what could happen to Arab citizens in the future,â€ Inbitawi said.
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