President Rivlin hosts seminar on pardons

Rivlin annually hosts a pardons seminar on one of the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are the Ten Days of Repentance – and by implication, the Ten Days of Pardon.

President Rivlin hosts seminar on pardons (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
President Rivlin hosts seminar on pardons
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin hosted his annual seminar on pardons on Thursday, as he usually does on one of the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are the Ten Days of Repentance, and by implication the 10 days of pardon – providing that those who ask for it show genuine remorse.
This year’s seminar focused on the framework for pardons that was jointly announced by Rivlin and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Rivlin said at the time that special consideration had been given to soldiers who were first time offenders and whose crimes had not been of a serious nature. Their slates were wiped clean, and they were now able to continue with their lives and embark on professions that might have been closed to them if they had any record of a criminal conviction. In this context, 116 pardons were granted, and the sentences of more than a hundred civilians were commuted.
Rivlin said that many soldiers and young people who do civilian national service have great potential, and some also have leadership abilities. If given the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, they can integrate well into society.
If they are truly sorry for the actions that led to their convictions, then the president, in consultation with legal authorities, can show compassion.
Both Rivlin’s legal adviser Udit Corinaldi-Sirkis, and Nochi Politis, head of the Pardons Department in the Justice Ministry, underscored that the president had made great efforts throughout the 70th anniversary year to grant pardons and to commute sentences in consultation with the State Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Defense Office, the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Authority, the Israel Prison Service, the Judicial Authority and the pardons committee, as well as with the IDF led by the chief education officer.
Corinaldi-Sirkis emphasized several times that there had been no general amnesty, but that each request for a pardon or a commuted sentence was treated on an individual basis, taking into consideration time served, behavior in prison, evidence of rehabilitation, and a declaration by the petitioner that he or she regretted the incident that led to their conviction and imprisonment.
RIVLIN ACKNOWLEDGED that law and justice can be very complex, and that the decision-making process can be extremely difficult because the reality is much more complicated than it may seem at face value.
He mentioned the case of Simona Mory, who was released from prison last month after having served 22 years for murdering her violently abusive husband in 1996. Her children age nine and three at the time sided with her, but details revealed in court went against her and she was given what many thought was much too harsh of a punishment: a life sentence. This was eventually reduced to 28 years, and in view of her circumstances, she was pardoned after serving 22 years.
When considering requests for pardons and reductions of sentence, said Rivlin, one must not only think of the nation’s achievements but also of its responsibilities. Whoever has committed a crime deserves to be punished, but every person also deserves an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.
Sitting in the audience was Naftali (Naf) Javetz, who today heads the corrections department in the Labor and Social Services Ministry. Rivlin related that Javetz was one of nine siblings born into a haredi family, a victim of sexual abuse, and who at age 15 left religion. His parents disowned him and threw him out into the street, and for more than two years he was a street kid wandering around Jerusalem and falling into bad company. He rejected all efforts of help from municipal social workers, and became a junior drug dealer. When he was 17 he was arrested, and with 14 different criminal files against him, he was charged, convicted and imprisoned.
Following his release from prison, Javetz realized the error of his ways, and began to work on his rehabilitation. Because he was sincere in what he was doing, his record was erased by President Shimon Peres, thus enabling him to start life anew. Due to his own experiences, Javetz became a social worker. His talents were recognized, bringing him to his present position.
A documentary film was made several years ago about Javetz’s life as a street kid, to illustrate the problems and the challenges faced by more than 30,000 street kids in Israel. It was screened to give all those attending the seminar a better understanding of how even good kids can go down the wrong track, and that there is always hope for those who want to get out of the abyss.
Rivlin said that this was also the message behind the 70th anniversary and commuted sentences, which were far in excess of those in the previous five years.