(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz urged the High Court of Justice on Sunday to reject two petitions that the Winograd Committee on the Second Lebanon War agree to caution those who stand to be harmed by its findings and allow them to hire a lawyer and question witnesses.
The petitions, filed by the military defender's section of the IDF Judge Advocate General's office and former interior minister Avraham Poraz, are due to be heard on Tuesday.
"It seems the committee is correct in its argument that the petitions are premature," wrote the state's representative, Aner Helman.
"Anyone who receives notification [that he stands to be harmed] from the committee and feels afterward that it is not allowing him to properly exercise his right to defend himself, will be able to return to the court afterward, and then it will be possible to examine the arguments on the basis of concrete facts rather than theoretical concerns."
Mazuz was not defending the Winograd Committee, which hired a private lawyer, Zvi Agmon, to represent it in the two petitions.
Indeed, the attorney-general said the petitioners ought not to have included him in the petition since he was not involved in the dispute.
The petitioners have demanded that anyone who stands to be hurt by the panel's findings be granted the same rights to defend themselves as called for in the State Commission of Inquiry Law.
According to Article 15 of that law, the commission must send letters of caution specifically stating that the recipient could be hurt by its findings and on what grounds.
The recipient then has the right to hire a lawyer and question witnesses before the committee to disprove the allegations.
The Winograd Committee is a government-appointed committee of examination, established on the basis of the Basic Law: Government and not the State Commission of Inquiry Law. Article 15 does not appear in the law providing for the establishment of a government-appointed committee.
In the past, the Winograd Committee has strongly indicated that it would not send letters of caution and would not allow anyone who might be hurt by its findings to hire a lawyer and question witnesses.
Its initial position appeared to be that it had made clear to those affected among the more than 60 witnesses summoned to appear before it that they could be hurt, and specified which of their actions it considered problematic. The committee also said it had allowed those who received such letters to take as much time as they wanted to explain their position to the committee.
Last week, in its response to the petitions, the panel appeared to have changed its mind. It told the court it had not yet decided who stood to be hurt and in what ways, and that it had therefore decided to wait until it got farther into its work before deciding how to deal with this question. It also said it would send "appropriate notices" to those likely to be harmed by its findings.
Given the committee's response, state representative Helman wrote, the petitions were premature, and the petitioners ought to wait and see what the panel actually did regarding those who might be affected.