Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Friedmann: We can infringe on security prisoners' conditions

Justice minister says Israel has several legal means in which it can worsen conditions of Palestinian prisoners' confinement; says special committee to explore minimizing visitation, phone privileges

The special ministerial committee formed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in view of the failed negotiations for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will convene Wednesday afternoon.


The committee, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, stands to explore the possibility of worsening the confinement conditions of security prisoners as means of leverage over Hamas. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has also been named for the committee.


"As far as I know some (prisoners) enjoy more than minimal privileges," Friedmann told Ynet. "There are several steps we can take without breaking the law, such as reducing visitation rights and phone privileges, and controlling allowances."


The committee, he added, will be briefed on the legal recourse available to Israel: "We have to look into the conditions they have now. There are certain questions that need to be examined and then we will make the necessary decisions."


As for any foreseeable High Court petitions against such moves, Friedmann seemed undeterred: "We have to put our considerations first. We have to do the right thing regardless of the possibility of a High Court petition. If once the decisions are made they are challenged in court, the court would have to rule, but that's a different story."


'You can negotiate with murderers'

Nevertheless, the matter may not be so cut-and-dry, as constitutional law expert Professor Ariel Bendor, of Haifa University, explains: "In the absence of a law to that effect, security prisoners cannot be used as bargaining chips.


"There may, however, be room to differentiate between certain types of security prisoners, which would be able to allow for certain infringements on phone and visitation rights, that are not a given for prisoners," he said.


As for the closed Gaza crossings, Friedmann said the committee he now heads "will allow the very minimum through," further stressing the committee "will not be discussing the release of Palestinian prisoners. That is for the prime minister to decide. The committee will explore whether or not security prisoners have been given more than the minimal prison conditions and what can be done to minimize their privileges."


The committee's recommendations, he said, will probably be applied by Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's future government, but it could also choose to ignore them.


"The prime minister did everything in his power and went above and beyond to ensure Shalit's retune," said Friedmann when asked about the impasse in Israel's negotiations with Hamas.


"There is this (public) notion that once a terror group makes demands we have to immediately agree to them. That is an irresponsible approach that comes with a heavy price.


"There are strategic repercussions…the more we give in the more abductions we may see in the future and every time we surrender the bolster radical elements and weaken the moderate ones," he said.


"This theory that there is no negotiating with murderers is not necessarily true. They are ruthless and rigid, but they are not above negotiations."


Meanwhile, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) called on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to dissolve the ministerial committee, calling any potential move "collective, unjust and illegal punishment."


פרסום ראשון: 03.18.09, 11:49
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