Court refuses to make ISA tape interrogations

Ruling disregards recommendations from Turkel Commission report.

Palestinian stone thrower detained 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian stone thrower detained 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice struck down a petition to compel the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to record all interrogations, disregarding recommendations from the recent Turkel Commission report and former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, human rights groups announced late Saturday night.
The decision was handed down on Thursday and struck down the petition, but did not dismiss it. This means that the petition can be refiled at a later date, as the basis for rejecting the petition was procedural, rather than deciding the merits of the issue in dispute.
The High Court was actually hearing two petitions, filed by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and other human rights groups, one pertaining to the Shin Bet and another requesting the court strike a provision exempting the police from recording interrogations of certain security suspects in a 2002 law regarding interrogating suspects.
Ruling essentially that the issue was premature, the High Court cited that the Justice Ministry had recently committed to the Knesset to analyze the issue in July 2012, and that it should be given time to do so.
Also, the court noted that the Knesset had just recently extended the law dispute through July 5, 2015, and that it would essentially disrespect the Knesset to intervene before that date, which the court implied was not that far off.
Next, the court noted that a new Knesset was about to convene and that deference on such major policy issues should be given to the new Knesset, should it wish to address the issue first.
The ruling, however, lay in stark contrast to the recommendations of both the Turkel Commission’s second report, published Wednesday, and to those of former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin.
The Turkel Commission, chaired by former justice Jacob Turkel, and viewed with tremendous respect and considered objective by Israel’s top legal officials, said in Recommendation 15 that “there should be a full video recording of all Shin Bet interrogations, according to guidelines set by the attorney-general in coordination with the Shin Bet.”
In the commission’s report, it also quoted Diskin as saying that “even if not everyone always likes it, I think it is proper.”
These powerful recommendations augmented Adalah’s various arguments.
The human rights group had argued that fundamental rights were being violated, as it said suspects were being abused or tortured, but there could be no effective investigation without video recordings.
It had also said that the tactics used by the Shin Bet led to false confessions by suspects and wrong intelligence, as sometimes suspects merely confirmed what they were asked to confirm in order to be released sooner and avoid abuse.
Responding to the court’s striking of its petition, Adalah highlighted that the 2002 law was labeled an “emergency law” at the time and has been extended multiple times for a period of years, leaving it in place for at least 13 years by the extension to 2015.
Adalah said that this made a farce of the idea that it was an emergency law, and of the High Court calling intervening “premature,” when the petition was filed in 2010, and the Knesset waited until July 2012 to extend the law again.
In other words, Adalah said, calling intervening “premature” was ignoring the 13 years of history and pretending that the issue had been raised in July 2012 for the first time.
The Shin Bet responded that there could be no video recordings because eventually the recordings would become case evidence and end up in the hands of the terrorists.
“We cannot disrespect our adversary. It is very sophisticated and knows how to learn and it can learn how to handle the Shin Bet and its abilities. It can learn our interrogation methods,” the state attorney told the court on behalf of the Shin Bet.
The state attorney also added that the argument that there is no recording of interrogations is false, as all interrogations are recorded in writing.
He said that recordings in writing protected suspects’ rights as well as avoided the pitfalls of giving away interrogation tactics.
The court itself, in describing the Knesset’s extension process, noted that the state had only asked for a two-year extension and that the Knesset had given it three years of its own initiative, implying that the Knesset wanted to give the Justice Ministry time to better classify which interrogations could be recorded and which could not.