Justice Ministry approves changes to homicide law

Legal experts have said that under proposed new legislation, Karp’s three killers would likely have been convicted of murder,

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Knesset)
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Knesset)
The Justice Ministry’s Department of Legislation on Tuesday officially approved and publicly distributed recommendations for far-reaching changes to the Homicide Law.
A commission of legal experts that the ministry had appointed submitted a report with recommendations on the changes in August 2011. The recommendations received approval after several rounds of debate between different arms of the Justice Ministry, as well as the Attorney-General’s Office, to ensure that all relevant issues and perspectives were addressed.
Leading the commission that submitted the initial report was Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Then-justice minister Daniel Friedmann appointed the commission in 2007 after years of criticism of the old law, which culminated in criticism from then-Supreme Court president Aharon Barak in a well-known 2006 decision.
The law has remained unchanged since the British Mandate.
Under the existing law, unlawful killing can fall under three categories: murder, manslaughter and causing death by negligence. While a murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence, manslaughter receives a much lighter sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
However, to convict someone of murder, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that even the most brutal and unprovoked killing was premeditated.
The drastic and undesired implications of that law became clear in the legal storm that swept the country following the manslaughter conviction of three Jaljulya men who brutally beat and kicked Arik Karp to death on a Tel Aviv beach.
In a highly publicized decision in July 2011, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Karp’s killers – Jamil Ades, Abed al- Rahman Ades and a minor who cannot be named – of manslaughter rather than murder, after judges ruled that the prosecution had not proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the killing had been intentional.
Legal experts have said that under the proposed new legislation, Karp’s three killers would likely be convicted of murder, since the proposed legislation replaces the old murder charge definition with a new hierarchy of murder charges.
The first level, called the basic murder charge, includes two degrees of murder, the first being premeditated murder.
The second-degree murder charge would include spur-of-the-moment killings in which the perpetrators did not care whether the victim lived or died.
Legal experts have said that the second-degree murder charge would fit the Karp case.
The proposed system also includes a charge of murder with aggravating circumstances, which would allow a judge to impose a life sentence, although a life sentence would not necessarily be mandatory.
Acts of terror would also fall under this category, as would the murder of a minor or public official, murders connected with sex crimes and racially motivated murders.
The proposed law also recommends removing the charge of manslaughter completely and replacing it with two new offenses: killing in circumstances of reduced liability, including after prolonged abuse or in self-defense; and causing death by negligence.
With the justice minister’s approval of the new legislation, it is expected to be presented to the Knesset.
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.