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Prolonged Suspect Detainment Amid Coronavirus Crisis

© Rafael Ben Ari -

On 30.3.2020, we submitted our comments on the Criminal Procedure Law memorandum (valid for the duration of three months), which establishes the extremely problematic practice of detaining a suspect under arrest during a period wherein no relevant interrogations are possible, if central witnesses or the suspects themselves are either sick or in quarantine. According to the memorandum, under such circumstances, the suspect may be held in a detention facility for a prolonged period of time, without an indictment or an interrogation regarding the case.

ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu wrote in the comments that the proposed arrangement is unconstitutional and inadequately balances suspects’ rights to liberty and due process with the needs of law enforcement agencies. There is no doubt that a suspect or witness’ infection with the Coronavirus prevents investigative actions, yet it is unreasonable for the suspect to “pay the price” for either a witness’ or their own illness through sustained denial of liberty, when their release is contingent on the process.

We have demanded that for circumstances wherein “the advancement of investigations has been prevented” for more than a few days, the detainee must be released from the detention facility and held in an alternative setting, such as under house arrest, electronic monitoring, or guarded in a dedicated facility outside the prison. Alternatively, we demanded that this arrangement be limited to serious offenses for short periods of time, under which the detainee must be held in improved conditions.

Furthermore, we voiced opposition toward plans to increase the period of time wherein a suspect of a security offense is barred from seeing their attorney to an additional 14 days, beyond the 21 days currently legally prescribed. We claimed that permitting the incarceration of a person and their complete detachment from the outside world for a period of 35 days constitutes inhumane conditions with psychological effects that may lead to false confessions. The amount of time currently legally prescribed is extreme and exceptional as is, and must not be further extended.

On 16.4.2020, the bill was presented before the Knesset. Fortunately, as a result of our opposition, the component addressing extending the period of time prior to meeting with a lawyer has been omitted. We have submitted our comments on the bill to the Knesset.

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