A-G, Aharonovitch clash on use of 'administrative detention' for criminals

Public security minister pushes controversial 'administrative detention' for criminals amid increase in mob violence.

YITZHAK AHARONOVITCH 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will try to resolve a dispute between Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein over how far to stretch the law to fight organized crime.
To combat a recent uptick in mob violence, the dispute between the parties erupted full scale late Tuesday.
Saturday evening during an interview on Channel 2, Aharonovitch said, “In a war you use all of the tools. There are tools I have requested: budget increases and to allow the police to use administrative detentions.”
Following an attempted car bombing of a government prosecutor on Thursday who was working on cases against organized crime, all major law enforcement officials said that organized crime had crossed a red line and that the state’s counterattack would be much harsher than usual.
Much of the media overlooked this comment as the focus was on the more general, elevated fight against crime as well as new arrests of organized crime figures which were being made.
Questioned earlier Tuesday about Aharonovitch’s push for using administrative detentions, government sources involved in the issue indicated that this tactic was not seriously being considered.
But later Tuesday, Aharonovitch doubled-down, giving an impassioned speech for using administrative detention and other more aggressive measure to fight crime.
At the Journalists Association’s conference in Eilat on Tuesday, Aharonovitch said “our intention is to take them [criminals] off the street. I need to worry about the citizens and not about them [criminals].
“This is a war and we will win this war,” he added.
At the same conference, Danino expressed support for a “new search law” which many interpreted in context to mean warrantless searches.
Following these comments, the same government sources indicated that it was unclear what the government as a whole would decide but that Weinstein was “categorically opposed” to using administrative detention.
Livni’s office said that she is not taking a public stance on any of the specific potential new tools for fighting crime in dispute, but hopes to resolve the dispute at a meeting she is chairing Sunday.
The meeting will include all of the key players: Weinstein, Aharonovitch, Danino and State Attorney Moshe Lador, among others.
Overall, Livni’s stance is to use all available means within the boundaries of the law to work on a united front to fight organized crime without compromise.
Administrative detention is indefinite detention without formal trial or regular charges, though military judges can approve specific periods of detention.
To date in Israel, the government says that it uses it in rare circumstances for foreign terrorists, like Hamas agents, only to prevent them from committing future crimes or where presenting the evidence at trial would expose intelligence sources in the field.
Even using administrative detention against foreign terrorists is highly controversial and is rarely used in Western democracies with the US and Israel being some of the few countries who have used it.
But it has never been used to fight domestic crime, such as organized crime, who must be brought to trial and can only be detained for defined periods as set down by civilian courts.
In all but the most extreme cases, a warrant must be issued for certain kinds of police searches for evidence related to crimes.
Israel Democracy Institute vice president and top criminal law expert Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer said that using administrative detention against organized crime was “a bad idea” and that “there is no comparison between the fear and threat of terror and of organized crime.”
He said that he disagreed with Aharonovitch’s statement implying that criminals rights were unimportant, stating, “We can’t forget rights, they are the infrastructure of our democracy.”
Kremnitzer added that the only scenario where he could foresee using administrative detention against domestic crime would be where “the rule of law was near collapse and we are not there.”
He said that he was “very worried” that actors which were anti-Israel “would be happy” to use such a new policy to further undermine Israel’s image and that even Israeli tourism and foreign investment into the country could be damaged.