The Winograd Committee appeared on Thursday to reverse itself for the second time regarding how it will deal with those who stand to be harmed by the findings of its investigation into the government's handling of the Second Lebanon War.
In its response to petitions filed by the military defender in the Military Advocate General's Office and by former MK Avraham Poraz, the committee's lawyer, Zvi Agmon, wrote that its members had not yet decided how to deal with the matter, and therefore there was no reason to petition the court at this time. The committee had previously said that it would allow affected parties to present their defense to the committee, but has not yet heard any such testimony.
"The committee has not yet made any decisions regarding who might be harmed by the final report or how they might be harmed," wrote Agmon.
"Therefore, the committee will decide on the exact extent of the rights that will be given to potential victims of the final report only after it makes more progress in its work and reaches the stage of determining who the potential victims are and how they will be harmed.
Agmon maintained that this was the position that committee chairman Eliyahu Winograd had presented in a letter to the military defender on July 18.
In the letter, Winograd said, "the committee would send appropriate notifications to those who might be hurt and would also allow any potential victim 'to plead before the committee drew up its final draft of the report and before it published it.'"
Indeed, Agmon added, the military defender had been satisfied with this answer. It was only later that day, when the committee released a statement to the media clarifying its position, that she and Poraz decided to petition.
According to the media statement, the committee would carry out the measures referred to in its July 18 letter on behalf of those "who have not already received it." But according to the petitioners, no one has been offered these measures so far.
Agmon maintains that the committee's position is identical to that expressed in the letter guaranteeing the right of defense. "The committee had in no way intended to alter its position by way of the media statement. It stands behind the letter of July 18."
Agmon also argued that, according to the law, petitioners representing the public interest may not petition when there are individual victims who can be identified and who stand to be affected by the state's policy and do not themselves petition the court.
He also said that a government-appointed committee of examination such as the Winograd Committee was not bound by the same laws as a state commission of inquiry appointed by the Supreme Court president.
Even though some of the provisions of the law governing state commissions of inquiry can be applied to committees of examination, this is not true of Article 15, which defines the steps that must be taken to give potential victims in state commission inquiries the chance to defend themselves.
He also argued that in its mandate to the committee, the government had ordered it to work as fast as possible. In determining the extent of the right to defend themselves that the committee could offer the potential victims of its report, it had to balance between the laws of natural justice and the speed with which it had to complete its report.