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26.8.2013

After a lengthy battle: the responsibility for examining interrogee complaints against ISA interrogators (the Complaints Inspector's position) has been transferred entirely to the Ministry of Justice

The Interrogee-Complaints Inspector is the authority charged with examining complaints against interrogators of the Israel Security Service (ISA), a position formed in 1992 following the Bus 300 affair and the Landau Commission Report. Since its formation and until 2013, the position has been staffed by an ISA official, a member of the organization he was charged with investigating. Therefore, a complaint against an ISA member was examined by the Complaints Inspector, who then transferred his findings report to his supervisor at the Ministry of Justice, who considered the report and issued a final decision. In time, it becomes evident that the internal mechanism of reviewing complaints achieved the opposite of its aim – whitewashing instead of supervision. The inspector and his supervisor promoted the sweeping closure of complaints, without criminal investigation, indictment or prosecution. Thus for example, during 2001-2011, over 650 complaints of torture and abuse by ISA interrogators were submitted to the inspector. But none resulted in the opening of a criminal investigation.

In August 2010, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to instruct the Attorney General to examine complaints of torture during ISA interrogations in a prompt and efficient manner and to formulate a complaint-review procedure so as to eliminate, inter alia, prolonged neglect of such complains. In January 2011, in its response to the petition, the State Attorney's Office announced the investigation of complaints by ISA interrogees would be placed entirely under the authority of the justice ministry.

In February 2011, HaMoked joined the Committee against Torture in Israel and other human rights organizations in a petition to the HCJ requesting that the Attorney General be ordered to open criminal investigations against ISA interrogators regarding the complaints of ten Palestinian interrogees. The organizations asserted that the internal complaint review procedure – the "preliminary review" of complaints by an ISA employee and his supervisor at the justice ministry – did not meet the requirements of either Israeli or international law; afforded full immunity to ISA interrogators; was extremely unreasonable; violated the complainants' right to due process; and rendered meaningless the absolute prohibition against torture. In a partial judgment issued in August 2012, the Court sharply criticized the functioning of the internal review mechanism, and ruled that it should be entirely transferred from the ISA to the justice ministry. Justice Elyakim Rubinstein held that, properly, "the inspection should not be conducted by a person who 'owes institutional allegiance' to the ISA." In November 2012, the State repeated its claim that the justice ministry was acting to transfer to it the position of Complaints Inspector, and that all entities involved "are aware of the urgency of completing the process."

In February 2013, the Turkel Commission Report – a public commission appointed by the Israeli government – also concluded that "there are serious failures in the effectiveness and thoroughness of the investigation [into complaints against ISA interrogators] and also in its promptness." The Commission determined that the flaws in the complaints examination process "[...] raise severe doubts as to the Complaints Inspector's ability to conduct an ‘effective investigation’" and recommended transferring the responsibility for examining complaints against ISA interrogators to the Police Internal Investigation Department at the justice ministry. The Turkel Report also revealed that back in November 2010, the Attorney General had decided that the Complaints Inspector would no longer be an ISA employee but an employee of the justice ministry.

In June 2013, the Ministry of Justice announced the transfer of the position of Complaints Inspector to the justice ministry, and the appointment to the position of Colonel (Res.) Jana Modzagavrishivili, who served as Chief Military Prosecutor until recently. The justice ministry stated in the announcement that the Complaints Inspector's transfer from the ISA to the justice ministry was made "for the 'sake of appearances', and in order to prevent 'libelous speech' and increase the public's confidence in this important institution" (emphasis in original).

HaMoked hopes that despite the justice ministry's announcement, which intimates that the transfer of powers was only made for appearances' sake, the new inspector will examine complaints against ISA interrogators in a pertinent manner according and bring about their indictment if necessary, and will not close complaints files in a sweeping manner, as was the case until recently.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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