Ministers back bill canceling need to film terrorists’ interrogations

Public Security Ministry Erdan says suspects are less likely to give investigators information if they are being filmed.

The Knesset (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
The Knesset
The police will no longer have to video or make voice recordings of interrogations of people suspected of committing a security offense, if a bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday becomes law.
The current law requires that interrogations of suspects of a crime with a punishment of 10 years or more to be documented, but, since 2002, a temporary measure made an exception for those suspected of terrorism. The proposal by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan would make the temporary provision, which was renewed every three years since it first passed, permanent.
“Documentation can cause real harm to the interrogation and the ability to investigate a security offense, and thus really harm the ability to stop the threat of terrorism, solve crimes and reveal who committed them,” the Public Security Ministry proposal states.
According to the ministry, those suspected of security offenses are often prepared for the interrogation by a terrorist organization, which explains to them how to overcome the investigators’ tactics.
The more information that is available about interrogations, the more the quality of the terrorist organizations’ intelligence improves.
“Visual and vocal documentation of security investigations can help those organizations learn immediate lessons from what happens in an interrogation and increase their preparedness for additional investigations,” the ministry stated.
In addition, the Public Security Ministry said suspects are less likely to give investigators information if they are being filmed, for fear that members of their terrorist organization will view them as cooperating with Israelis.
The Public Defender’s Office and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel opposed the legislation, with the latter explaining that documentation is “a necessary tool allowing proper oversight of the way interrogations are conducted...
to prevent torture and use of inappropriate interrogation means and to ensure that when a suspect admits to what he is suspected of, the court can examine the circumstances of the admission.”
ACRI pointed out that studies have shown suspects are more likely to admit to crimes they did not commit while under pressure, and posited that such pressure is more likely to be applied in interrogations relating to security offenses.
“Security investigations without documentation severely harm a long line of the subject’s basic constitutional rights: To dignity, to bodily integrity, to due process, to freedom and to equality,” ACRI said. “It also contradicts the State of Israel’s responsibility, according to international law, to act to prevent torture.
The ministers authorized the bill with little debate on Sunday. It will have to pass three readings in the Knesset to become law.
Despite the heated debate, some of posturing on both sides may be more academic than something that will seriously change the facts on the ground.
Currently, most serious security crime suspects are interrogated first by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which does not need to videotape interrogations.
By the time they are handed over to police for a fully documented interrogation they have usually already confessed and there is little need for the police to use rough tactics.
In February 2013, the quasi-governmental Turkel Commission recommended in its second report, partially on the basis of former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin's support, that all Shin Bet interrogations be videotaped like police investigations.
To date, the state has vehemently rejected that recommendation, including before the High Court of Justice.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.