Public Security minister calls for administrative detention against organized crime suspects

Human rights lawyer says move would begin the "slippery slope" to endangering other rights.

November 12, 2013 19:26
2 minute read.
Israel police.

Police car370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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In the wake of an uptick in mob violence, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Likud Beytenu) has called for “preventative arrests” against criminal figures along the lines of the administrative detentions used to fight terror.

“Our intention is to take [criminals] off the street,” Aharonovitch said Tuesday at a conference of the Journalists Association in Eilat.

“I need to worry about the citizens and not about them [the criminals]. This is a war and we will win this war.”

It was a statement similar to one he made Saturday night during an interview on Channel 2, in which he said that “in a war you use all the tools. There are tools I have requested – budget increases and to allow the police to use administrative detentions.”

An official at the Public Security Ministry said Tuesday that Aharonovitch is in favor of “preventative arrests... carried out before the commission of a crime, which is permitted if it is for the sake of public security.”

The official added that “if people are going to describe these organizations as being like terror groups, then they need to be treated like terror groups.”

Despite Aharonovitch’s statements, one government source said Tuesday that administrative detention was “not being discussed.”

The source said that while many more aggressive measures were under discussion following last Thursday’s attempted car bombing in Tel Aviv of a prosecutor working on cases against organized crime, administrative detention was not one of the measures.

Another source said that Aharonovitch’s words might have been taken out of context.

Administrative detention is indefinite detention without formal trial or even regular charges, although military judges can approve specific periods of detention.

The government says it is used in rare circumstances for foreign terrorists, such as Hamas members, to prevent them from committing future crimes or where presenting evidence at a trial would expose intelligence sources in the field.

Administrative detention is highly controversial and rarely used in Western democracies, with Israel and the US being among those nations employing it.

It has never been used to fight domestic crimes, which must be brought to trial, the suspects being detained only for defined periods by civilian courts.

Aharonovitch’s comments on Saturday were billed as a speech aimed at reassuring the public that the state was going to respond strongly to the car bomb attacks and other activities by crime families. Administrative detention was only one of many measures he mentioned.

Gabi Lasky, a human rights lawyer, said the use of administrative detention for the domestic crimes should be be “prohibited,” adding that it could “damage democracy.”

Lasky said that even if the state promised to use it only against the worst offenders in organized crime, there was a “slippery slope, and eventually it could lead to getting rid of other rights.”

She added that “the choice of administrative detention” would show the “bankruptcy of the police” and mean they are “not properly doing their job and need more funding.”

Administrative detention, she said, was not the answer.

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