High Court grills police, Shin Bet on videotaping interrogations

Justices postpone decision on issue for seven months.

CCTV security camera (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
CCTV security camera
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday pressed the police and the Shin Bet on videotaping more interrogations of detainees, while delaying a decision on the issue until another hearing in July 2016, according to the petitioner’s lawyer Nadeem Shehadeh.
The petitioner, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, asked the High Court to require both the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to videotape interrogations of detainees to help ensure that detainees are not abused or tortured.
Currently, the police videotape many interrogations, but there is an exception for certain security cases and the Shin Bet has been entirely exempt from videotaping.
In February 2013, those arguing for videotaping Shin Bet interrogations gained a public relations coup as the quasi-government Turkel Commission, along with former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin, recommended videotaping.
Critics have said for years that the Shin Bet abuses detainees’ rights and that the police also do sometimes, especially if there is no check on them through videotaping.
Those wishing to keep videotaping out of interrogations of security detainees say that videotaping would reveal and undermine interrogation tactics, and make it harder to solve and prevent terrorist plots.
In June, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee extended the status quo with exceptions from videotaping until at least January 2017.
However, the committee is due to discuss the issue again in July 2016 and the High Court will hold a hearing shortly thereafter.
The current arrangement of exceptions from videotaping has been in place on an emergency temporary basis since 2002- 2003, leading Adalah to argue that it can no longer be called temporary, and must therefore be struck down.
Shehadeh said that Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein and Justices Salim Joubran and Neal Hendel questioned the state hard about continuing to delay resolution of the issue and denied the state’s request to dismiss the petition as premature.
At the same time, Shehadeh admitted that the seven-month extension, which will really be a yearlong extension to January 2017 when the Knesset makes its final decision on the issue, meant that the issue would drag on for a substantial time.
There was no court transcript available to confirm the account of events due to the court experiencing an unusual technical problem that prevented it from distributing the transcript.
Another variable is the recommendations issued in September by the Ciechanover Commission, named for its head, former Foreign Ministry director-general Joseph Ciechanover.
The Ciechanover Commission split from the Turkel Commission recommendations by avoiding endorsing videotaping Shin Bet interrogations.
However, it recommended installing a live video feed that a Shin Bet supervisor and the Justice Ministry’s “czar” for investigating complaints against the Shin Bet could view in real-time and take notes on in case there were violations or irregularities.
The state likely wants to run this as a pilot program before presenting it to the High Court as a permanent solution and compromise sometime down the line, but is avoiding doing so for now, which keeps the issue more wide-open.