(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Four months after the Turkel Commission recommended it, the Justice Ministry
made a dramatic announcement on Wednesday of the appointment of the head of a
department it has created for investigating complaints against the Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency).
The appointment of Col. (res.) Jana
Modgavrishvili, a recent former head prosecutor in the IDF’s Military Advocate-
General’s Office but never an agent of the Shin Bet, to be the first head of the
new department could completely reorder the balance of power between the Shin
Bet and the Justice Ministry.
The B’Tselem human rights organization
responded to the announcement stating that the state had admitted as early as
2007 that the Shin Bet’s investigations of itself were problematic.
added that the change in the status quo had “taken too many years” and that the
state should “go one step further” by formally placing investigations of the
Shin Bet under the authority of its Police Investigation Department.
B’Tselem spokesman said that since there have been hundreds of complaints and no
investigations, the main thing was to “acknowledge that the system has simply
not been working.”
In contrast, the ministry’s announcement attempted to
play down the impact of the change.
It said that until now, the head of
investigations into the Shin Bet was already reporting to the Justice Ministry
and not to operational heads of the Shin Bet.
According to the statement,
although the head of investigations had always been part of the Shin Bet from an
administrative standpoint, this has only been a technical issue, and the
investigations head had always had independent authority.
statement said, that independent authority had been ensured by appointing a Shin
Bet agent for who the position would be there last post before retirement and by
placing the investigations head within the chain of command of the Justice
The statement went as far to say that the appointment was only
being made to avoid “the appearance of impropriety” and to build “public
confidence” in the state’s institutions.
All of this was in contrast to
the Turkel Commission’s second report
, issued in February: A review of the
quality of Israel’s internal investigations of complaints against its own
Although the report overall endorsed Israel’s internal
investigations as meeting international law standards, it also slammed the Shin
Bet as inadequately investigating itself.Of 19 recommendations
, one of
its strongest suggestions was moving investigations of the Shin Bet fully into
the Justice Ministry to improve the quality and independence of
Over the years, many human rights groups have accused the
Shin Bet of failing to penalize its agents when they have crossed the line and
of failing to properly investigate itself.
A top government legal
official familiar with the issue, under condition of anonymity, previously
implied that the Justice Ministry had not needed the Turkel Report II
to tell it
that moving investigations of the Shin Bet into the ministry would improve the
situation, and had started a process to do so even before the report was
Modgavrishvili will not only be the first head of the new
department, but will be the first non-Shin Bet agent investigating the Shin
At the time that the report came out, there was speculation that a
Shin Bet agent would get the appointment.
appointment, it appears either that the speculation was incorrect or the final
appointment may have been influenced by criticism after reports of the