Preventing Visits by Families and Attorneys in Prisons and Detention Centers
On 27.5.2020, ACRI petitioned the Minister of Public Security with notes on a law memorandum preventing family and attorney visits to prisons and detention centers as a mitigation effort against the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19. The law memorandum seeks to replace the status quo with emergency regulation (preventing the entry of visitors and attorneys to prisons and detention centers), 2020.
In the document, Attorney Anne Suciu claims that the intention to replace the status quo Knesset regulation with emergency regulations is welcomed, but that the option to revoke the rights of detainees to meet with their lawyers and families based on the Minister of Defense’s announcement is a disproportionate violation of their constitutional rights, including the rights to due process, access to courts, and human dignity. The chief issue in the law memorandum, as with previous memorandums regarding the limitations of detainees during Corona, is that it creates a divide between the nationwide state of emergency and the limitations placed upon prisoners and arrestees, based on the authority of the Minister of Defense. Even today, as the country has relatively returned to routine, there is a strict prohibition for detainees on family visits (including minors), furloughs, and limitation on meetings with lawyers. The fear is that the law memorandum will continue to uphold these disproportionate limitations on detainees which are reserved for emergency.
Key points from ACRI’s comments:
Investing in alternatives: Instead of promoting legislation that drastically infringes on the rights of detainees, the Prisons Service should utilize the respite period in the COVID-19 crisis to make necessary adjustments in order to ensure its detainees are able to exercise their rights safely, even in the case of another outbreak. The "easy" solution of detaching the incarcerated population from the outside world is disproportionate, and has alternatives: for example, installing partitions in the meeting rooms with lawyers; adding mobile structures (caravans) to hold meetings while maintaining the required distance; holding family visits in open spaces (yards) of detention facilities; and more.
Invalid declaration mechanism: The decision regarding the prevention or limitation of entry into detention facilities, which infringes on fundamental rights, should be taken by the legislating body, and not by the enforcing authority.
The right to legal counsel: Preventing detainees from meeting with their layers significantly infringes on the rights of suspects and defendants to receive proper legal counsel, conduct the detention procedures and criminal procedures fairly, and conduct procedures regarding their detention.
Systemic discrimination against security prisoners: The complete separation of security prisoners from their families, especially minors, disproportionately infringes on their fundamental rights. Alternatively, they should be allowed to have phone calls with close family members, at the very least in a similar manner to the prohibited visits.
ACRI's notes (Hebrew)