(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
State Attorney Eran Shendar said Monday he opposes Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's proposal to pass legislation limiting the amount of time police may investigate a suspect.
On Monday, Friedmann ordered the Justice Ministry's Legislative Department to prepare a bill to that effect. And during a meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, he expressed support for a private member's bill initiated by MK Dov Hanin (Hadash) also aimed at setting time limits for probes.
Friedmann called for a meeting of top officials from the Justice and Public Security ministries to discuss the details of the legislation. The bills would be revisited by the ministerial committee in two weeks, Friedmann said.
"I think the legislative proposals have more disadvantages than advantages," Shendar said in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post. He warned that the consequence of such legislation would be that many cases would be closed without an investigation.
"We can assume that the investigators do not deliberately want to delay investigating cases," he said. "So that if there are delays, it is largely because of the heavy case loads. But all the legislative proposals call for setting time limits for investigations without providing for more manpower.
"Let's say we have four cases and we want all of them to be investigated within six months. However, we only have two investigators available. What will happen? If we don't get two more investigators, two of the cases will be closed. As long as we don't talk about a parallel increase in manpower, we will be harming the public interest. I hope that is not the intention of the lawmakers."
Shendar said the police were already at work on a new regulation aimed at monitoring progress in investigations. He said it would determine how long an probe should take and see to it that if the investigation exceeded four months, the matter would be brought before a more senior officer to determine how to proceed.
Also Monday, Friedmann told the committee, "The current situation in which a person can be under investigation for even 20 years is unreasonable and untenable."
After the ministry's legislation department brings its draft to Friedmann, and Hanin makes changes to his proposal, the details of the bill will be discussed jointly by the two ministries. Friedmann gave instructions regarding what exceptions would be made to the general provisions of the law. For example, secret investigations will not be limited in time. Time limits will not be imposed on investigations regarding security matters.
The minister of justice, with the approval of the Knesset Law Committee, will be able to make additional exceptions to the general rule.
During his interview with the Post, Shendar also said the Justice Ministry was establishing a new unit to deal with lawsuits involving the state, that will be farmed out to lawyers in the private sector.
Coincidentally, the ministry announced Monday it had appointed Orit Kotev to head the unit.
"If we want to safeguard the heart of the state attorney's work, if we want to preserve the important matters in which the ethos of the State Attorney's Office is expressed, we must be practical," Shendar said. "We must sit down and think about what is really important and out-source the rest."
The new unit will also be responsible for suing others for failure to live up to contracts or regarding other civil matters, he said. It will be the first time that the state will take the offensive and sue others.
"We lose a lot of money because, on the one hand, the state's pockets are deep, so we can be fined when we are sued, while on the other hand, many civil wrongs are committed against the state and the state does not sue," Shendar said. Lawsuits filed by the state would be handled by private lawyers, he added.
On another matter, Shendar said Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had concluded his deliberations regarding an appeal by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, against the decision of the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department to close all the probes regarding the killing of 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian by police during the October 2000 riots. Mazuz would announce his decision in the "not distant future," Shendar said.
(Large segments of the interview with Shendar will be published in Friday's Frontlines.)â€¢