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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice on Thursday accepted the Winograd Committee's proposal to publish the censored testimonies of the prime minister, the defense minister and the former chief of general staff no later than two weeks after releasing its interim report, due by the end of April.
At the same time, it blasted the committee for trying to "undermine the [previous] ruling handed down by the court." Four of the five justices on the panel, including Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Deputy Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin, Asher Grunis and Salm Joubran supported the majority decision.
They agreed to allow the committee to publish the testimonies of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz up to two weeks after publishing the interim report. The fifth justice, Ayala Procaccia, demanded that the committee publish them immediately.
"Given the fact that according to the committee's statement, the interim report is due to be published soon and given the great import of publishing it soon, and given the fact that according to the committee's last statement, it feels it still has things to do before it can release the testimonies, I am not ordering it to publish them immediately," wrote Beinisch.
She added that if the testimonies were published within two weeks of the interim report, the public's ability to judge the report in the context of what the three key witnesses had told it "would not be substantially hurt."
The committee issued a laconic statement "thanking the court for allowing it to continue devoting its time to completing the interim report," and promised to abide by the court's decision.
The petitioner, Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On, who had demanded that the testimonies be published before the interim report, said she respected the High Court ruling but charged that "the delay in the release of the testimonies will harm the authority and moral validity of the committee."
The court harshly rejected the arguments put forward on behalf of the committee by the state's representative, attorney Osnat Mandel, in a brief to the court and during a hearing earlier in the week. Mandel had told the court that the committee could not release the testimonies of the three wartime leaders until it established the criteria for what should be censored and what could be published.
Beinisch wrote that these criteria had been clearly set forth in the court's ruling on a previous petition filed by Gal-On and did not have to be established by the committee.
"The law that applies with regard to the publication of the testimonies and the basic standards for interpreting the law have already been discussed and determined by the High Court," Beinisch wrote. "The committee must use its discretion [in determining what should be censored and what may be published] accordingly and should implement the standards set in that ruling.
Beinisch also wrote that she agreed with Gal-On's definition of what constituted a "reasonable time" to publish the testimonies.
"Reasonable time" for publishing a testimony meant that it should be published as soon as it had been read over and censored, Gal-On maintained. Since the state had informed the court that those appointed to censor the testimonies were already reading over them in March, they should have been published by now. For practical reasons, however, she agreed to allow the committee to publish them within two weeks of the interim report.
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