New anti-terrorist bill would replace, expand current laws

Stiffer punishments on tap as Israel follows in the footsteps of other countries in post-9/11 reality.

By DAN IZENBERG
April 22, 2010 05:20
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

terroristes. (photo credit: Archives)

 
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The government on Wednesday finished drafting comprehensive legislation to fight terrorism and distributed it to cabinet ministers, human rights groups and other interested parties for comments and criticism.

Those who received copies of the bill have until June 4 to submit their input. After considering it, the Justice Ministry will bring the proposal to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation for approval as a government bill.

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The legislation is based on several existing laws, including the 1948 Ordinance on Terrorism, the Law Prohibiting the Funding of Terrorism and the 1945 Emergency Defense Regulations.

According to the Justice Ministry spokesman’s office, the first two laws and parts of the emergency regulations will be revoked after the new bill is approved by the Knesset. The bill also incorporates existing temporary legislation dealing with the detention terms for security suspects during their interrogation.

According to the ministry, “the aim of the proposed bill is to give appropriate tools to state authorities in the areas of criminal and civil law to cope with terrorist organizations and the terrorist threats that Israel faces... We propose to give the law authorities a variety of tools in the criminal and civil areas. Their intertwined purpose is to prevent and foil acts of terrorism, damage the organizational and financial infrastructure that nourishes it, and bring violators to justice.”

Israel is following in the footsteps of many other countries that introduced anti-terrorism legislation in the wake of 9/11. But since several laws were already in place here to fight terrorism, including the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance and the 1945 Emergency Defense Regulations, Israeli authorities were not in as much of a hurry to legislate as were other Western countries, a human rights expert told The Jerusalem Post.

The only new law that Israel introduced prior to the current bill was one dealing with the financing of terrorist organizations.


However, the bill is not just a compendium of existing legislation but includes changes and, in many cases expansions, of current provisions.

The second section of the law, for example, defines in detail the type of illegal activity pertaining specifically to terrorism, including leading, membership in, providing services to or publicly identifying with a terrorist organization. Other crimes include incitement to terrorism, failure to prevent a terrorist act, threatening to perpetrate a terrorist act, and training or giving instruction to perpetrate a terrorist attack.

The bill also proposes to stiffen punishments for these crimes.

For example, the maximum sentence for anyone carrying out a criminal act that is defined as an act of terrorism will be twice the sentence prescribed by the Penal Law for “regular” criminal acts, up to a ceiling of 30 years in prison. A person sentenced for a terrorist crime to life in prison will only be allowed to have his sentence commuted after 15 years. Those serving life sentences for “regular” crimes may have their sentences commuted after seven years.

The human rights official warned that the type of anti-terrorism legislation passed by Western nations after 9/11 tended to be broad in its wording and granted governments a great amount of power on the basis of information it did not have to disclose in public. It also gave the government broad administrative powers against suspects without the need to prove guilt in court. Israel’s proposed legislation must be examined with these facts in mind, the official said.

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