‘LET’S DEBATE the meaning of the Zionist Idea today – in Israel and the Diaspora, then compare notes. It’s no longer about establishing the state; it should be about more than defending the state; it must be about perfecting the state.’.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Regulatory Commission report on the conduct of the National Center of Forensic Medicine that was recently debated in the Justice, Law and Constitution Committee is the latest report to provide a systematic review of the State Prosecutor’s Office.
Since the Regulatory Commission Law was enacted, the systematic review was supposed to be conducted by a special team established in the office of the ombudsman and state comptroller.
This last report was preceded by reports issued during the term of office of the previous commissioner, Hila Gerstel, prior to the passage of the Regulatory Commission Law. These reports brought to light severe, systematic problems and recommended solutions.
One example is the report that addressed the implementation of the Rights of Victims of Crime Law, published in 2015. This law, as the title suggests, defines the rights of those harmed physically, verbally or sexually by others. Until this law was enacted, victims were excluded from all involvement in the legal proceedings conducted by the state prosecution against offenders. The law now requires the state to provide information to a victim with regard to every stage of the legal procedure, including when the indictment is filed, what the charges are, when hearings are due to take place, if a plea bargain has been made, etc.
Judge Gerstel and her team discovered that despite the enactment of this law, it is not implemented consistently in the judicial system. There is widespread failure of attorneys to notify victims regarding legal procedures taking place and to enter victims’ names into legal records. Given the numerous failures in the system, Judge Gerstel, in her report, made a number of recommendations aimed at correcting these systematic failures in order to ensure that the state prosecution will protect victims’ rights as well.
However, recommendations are one thing and reality is another. Attorneys have made sure of one thing: attorneys are protected. The Rights of Victims of Crime Law states that even if the law’s clauses were not implemented, attorneys would not be at fault. In the worst-case scenario, disciplinary action might be taken.
In addition, the Regulatory Commission Law, which defines the boundaries of criticism of attorneys and representatives of the state, enumerates that in cases where criminal activity is suspected of an attorney or representative of the state, it is the attorney general, entrusted with state prosecution, who will determine whether an investigation should be opened. Hence an additional layer of defense is provided.
Herein lies the problem in the absence of control over the implementation of the Regulatory Commission. The commissioner’s function is to view the system from an external vantage point, to get a broad and comprehensive picture, and then to recommend a series of corrections that will improve the system to better serve the public. However, these recommendations are often not implemented at all, or only partially implemented, given that there is no one willing to ensure that they are executed in a satisfactory manner.
The attorneys working with the state prosecution clearly are not interested in having any form of monitoring; we have already been witness to the terrible war waged against the previous commissioner. Senior judicial officials are satisfied with systemic silence, and it is the general public that suffers from this state of affairs.
The only hope for the defense of the public interest is a functioning commissioner with a full understanding of the system. In addition to systematic monitoring to document whether or not there is satisfactory implementation of legislation and commissioners’ recommendations, it is necessary to ensure that those provisions are enforced within the judicial system.
The author is deputy director of the Legal Forum For a Democratic Zionist Israel.
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