Government: No right to attorney for up to a year

YNET reports this morning  that the ministerial committee for legislation  has voted that the government would endorse a bill allowing courts to deny “security” prisoners right to meet with their attorney for up to a year. Under current legislation, prisoners may be barred from seeing a lawyer for up to three weeks, although various tricks and chicanery sometimes allow security services go way over this time limit.

Still, the bill appears to both legitimise and sharply exacerbate an already unacceptable practice, and to delegate huge authority to prison service officials. Ultra-rightist Israel National News, which runs the report under the gleeful headline “Limits on legal advice for terrorists“, has more details on the exact timetable laid out in the bill:

“The prison manager may bar meetings of a period of up to 96 hours, instead of the current 24 hours; the Prisons Commissioner may,  with the agreement of the State Prosecutor or one of his deputies, to extend the period to up to 14 days, instead of the current 5; the district court may order extending the periods for further periods [sic] of up to six months at a time, instead of the current 21, on the condition that all periods will not together exceed the period of a year.”

As of 2:30pm Israel time, the only comment comes from the Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI). In a press release by the organisation, attorney Lila Margalit explains:

“Existing legislation already allows the Prison Service and the prosecution – followed by the court – to prevent a prisoner from meeting a certain attorney for extended periods of time, when a suspicion arises the meeting would be used to commit criminal offences or significant breaches of prison discipline. These draconic instructions already allow for an excessive damage to the right of an imprisoned person to consult an attorney of his choice, based upon classified material and without due process.

Now the public security ministry seeks to loosen the reins even further, and allow for a completely inappropriate intervention in the activity of lawyers, even when there is no concrete suspicion of a particular offence. The bill also seeks to extend significantly the period for which these limitations can be imposed… and thus dangerously erode the few guarantees meant to prevent abuse.”