Following are a number of recent laws and rulings that have had an impact on the human rights situation in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
1. Detention period shortened in Judea and Samaria
In recent years, a great deal of criticism has been voiced over the lack of symmetry between the length of initial detention (the amount of time allowed to detain an accused person until being brought before a judge) permitted in Israel and that permitted in Judea and Samaria. In 2010, for example, several human rights organizations submitted a petition on this subject to the Israeli Supreme Court. In Israel, the initial period of detention allowed was 24 hours, whereas in Judea and Samaria it was eight days.
In an amendment to the Military Order Regarding Security Provisions, which was signed in February and entered into force on 1 August 2012, the length of initial detention in Judea and Samaria for criminal offenses was shortened to 48 hours and for security offenses to 96 hours.
In addition, the period permitted to hold a suspect for questioning was shortened (up to 20 days, and, in certain exceptional cases, a maximum of 60 days) as well as the length of detention till the end of proceedings (shortened from two years to one-and-a-half for security offenses, and one year for criminal offenses).
The amendment also mandates that the trial of a suspect who is detained until the end of proceedings, must take place within 60 days from the day of the issuance of the indictment; otherwise, the Court will consider releasing the suspect.
2. The Supreme Court approves mechanism for reviewing complaints against the ISA
In a judgment from the beginning of August, the Supreme Court determined that the mechanism for reviewing complaints submitted by persons who have been interrogated by Israel Security Agency (ISA) officers is reasonable and operates within the constraints of the law. The judgment contained the following statements:
• The procedure for reviewing complaints – Every complaint or information concerning an offense allegedly committed by an ISA employee during investigation may be referred to a special comptroller who is authorized to conduct on the matter a preliminary examination. Following the examination, the comptroller transfers the file and all the material gathered, together with his opinion and a summary of his findings, to the comptroller’s superior (a senior advocate sitting in the State Attorney’s Office, in the Ministry of Justice). The senior advocate reviews the file and the comptroller’s recommendation and decides how to proceed: he has the authority either to close the file, to decide to initiate disciplinary actions (or to make internal changes in work procedures within the ISA) or to refer the file to the Attorney General (or his agent) in order to open a criminal investigation.
The court ruled that only the Attorney General or his agent may initiate an investigation against an ISA employee suspected of committing an offense in the course of fulfilling his duties, and the investigation is conducted by the Police Internal Investigations Department.
It is possible to appeal a decision of the senior advocate to close the file and not to open a criminal investigation. The appeal is submitted to the Attorney General. It is also possible to submit a petition to the High Court of Justice.
• Fighting terrorism in a democratic state (quoted from another ruling):
"Israel is at once a normal and an abnormal state. It is normal in that it is an active democracy in which basic rights are safeguarded. It fulfills its purpose as a Jewish and democratic state. It is abnormal in that the threats to its existence have not been removed, its relations with its neighbors have not been settled appropriately and the fight against terrorism continues. The challenge is to set up a legal system that can deal with both the normal and the abnormal aspects of the state… Safeguarding the rule of law is a mission – and an effort – common to all of the State’s authorities, and must take into account the delicate balance between security and rights. We as a country, as enforcement, prosecution and judicial authorities, must constantly examine our acts and our commitment to protect basic democratic values with alert, realistic self-criticism."
• Judicial review of the security system in general and the ISA in particular
"Since the end of the 1980s, following the bus 300 affair and the publication of the recommendations of the Landau Committee, and gradually after the passage of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, and rulings of this court… the security system is required to be subjected to judicial review, in a new era of transparency… despite fears that certain functions of the ISA and its investigators will be compromised there is no way to avoid progress in the judicial review apparatus in the spirit of the times."