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Head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman
Photo: Motti Kimchi
Shin Bet changes demonstrator inquiry procedures
After involvement from the High Court of Justice, the Shin Bet changes its inquiry procedures regarding individuals involved in 'subversive political activities'; from now on, a summons will usually be sent after consultation with a legal advisor and the person will be informed that he is not obligated to present himself.

A decision by the High Court of Justice instructed the Shin Bet to strike a balance between individual rights and public safety, pushing them to change their inquiry procedures for political demonstrators.

 

 

The decision followed a petition by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the Shin Bet's policy to summon political activists for informal talks, ones the Shin Bet calls "inquiries" but are called "warning talks" by the petitioners.

 

The petitioners claim that political activists that protest about something that is considered outside the consensus are summoned by the Shin Bet, usually via a police summons and without being informed that they are under no obligation to present themselves.

 

Jewish and Arab demonstrators during Operation Protective Edge (Photo: AFP)
Jewish and Arab demonstrators during Operation Protective Edge (Photo: AFP)

 

The petitioners also claim that the activists are questioned about their and their acquaintances' political activities and are then asked to provide details about their family and acquaintances. After that, they are warned from participating in similar political activity in the future lest they harm public safety. Sometimes the inquiry is accompanied by a bodily search.

 

All this, the petitioners claim, harms the right to a proper legal proceeding and the individual's right of protest and expression and are a deviation from Shin Bet authorities.

 

The Shin Bet has denied that the inquiries target those who partake in legal political activity or protest, claiming that they are intended for those who are involved in subversive and malicious activities that could endanger public safety. They claim that the inquiries are often based on intelligence that raised suspicion of a committed or about-to-be-committed felony that is under Shin Bet jurisdiction, and that the inquiries' purpose is to verify or refute the suspicion and to also expand Shin Bet intelligence.

 

The Shin Bet also claimed that they are not doing this to prevent social protest, but in some cases concerns are raised that the protest will devolve into disorderly conduct and violence, with emphasis on racially based riots, and in those cases inquiries are justified. They finished by saying that, in any case, they are taking necessary precautions.

Head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman
Head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman

 

The petitioners contradicted the claim that the inquiries target only those who are suspected in activities that could endanger public safety and complained that during the deliberations they were prevented from fully presenting their case for the face that due to security considerations the Shin Bet got to exhibit their claims in a one-sided manner.

 

The judges' ruling on the case clarified to the state that it must adjust its procedures in the matter in a way that will better balance individual rights and public safety. According to their instructions, summoning a person for an inquiry for "subversive activities" that are not related to terrorism or espionage will be done only after consultation with the Shin Bet legal advisor, who will consider the potential harm of the individual's rights against the potential harm for public safety.

 

In addition, after the legal advisor gave his approval, the Shin Bet must notify the person summoned that this is a voluntary inquiry and not a legal investigation and so he is under no obligation to attend. Also, in case the person does decide to accept being inquired, the Shin Bet must inform him that whatever he says cannot be used against him in court.

 

After the Shin Bet changed their procedures according to the court's instructions, the court rejected the petition, though not before the judges clarified that if their instructions will not be internalized and implemented, this debate may very well come up again in the future. AT the end of the deliberations the court ordered the Shin Bet to pay 15,000 shekels to ACRI for legal fees.