GSS Intervention in Police Investigations
We asked the Attorney General on January 21, 2022, about the General Security Services' (GSS) interference in police investigations. Legally, the GSS isn't allowed to deal with everyday crimes, but there is a gray area where it isn't always clear if an act is a crime or a security issue. We think that different events over the past year show that there is a lot of cause for concern about the gray area that has grown too much in violation of the law, and that the GSS's involvement in criminal investigations is selective and based on nationality.
In our appeal, Atty. Gil Gan-Mor, Director of ACRI’s Civil and Social Rights Unit, addressed two issues. First, GSS intervention in the investigation of offenses against police stations or officers. Regarding this matter, the GSS adopted a broad and unreasonable interpretation of GSS law, according to which harm caused to a police station entails a violation of a symbol of governance, thus granting it investigative authority even if the motive is criminal. Also, there are worries that the GSS only steps in when Arab citizens harm police stations during riots and not when Jewish protesters harm police. This provides a gateway for selective and discriminatory intervention.
Second, last May, the GSS announced that it would deem any violence between Jewish and Arab citizens terrorism, and began to engage in investigations into such incidents. Here, too, there is concern that the majority of cases in which the GSS intervenes entail violence carried out by Arabs against Jews, and when the violence is carried out by Jews against Arabs, the GSS rarely intervenes and police conduct the investigation.
The letter posited that not all hate crimes on racial grounds or hostility toward a group constitute crimes that warrant GSS intervention and that the police must contend with the grave crimes in question with the tools at their disposal. Situations wherein GSS intervention is determined by the national identity of a suspect are clearly unacceptable, and Arab hate crimes against Jews are perceived as nationalistic incidents to be investigated by the GSS, whereas hate crimes against executed by Jews against Arabs are being investigated by the police. Not only does this cause discrimination based on nationality, but it also has serious effects on the rights of suspects: the GSS has unique investigative capacities that the police lack and extremely far-reaching investigative tools, including impeding meetings with attorneys over long periods of time; longer detention periods; exempting investigations from documentation requirements; use of debilitating and stressful means of interrogation; upholding inferior detention conditions, and more.
In view of the above, we demanded:
The establishment of a formal written procedure that deems the bounds of GSS intervention in police investigations (if such a procedure does not exist) for public publication
The inclusion of a requisite in the aforementioned procedure, according to which the GSS must obtain approval from a high-ranking and external independent legal entity, for any intervention in an investigation.
The establishment of transparent, uniform, clear, and equitable criteria to dictate discretion regarding the circumstances in which GSS intervention in police investigations of state citizens and residents is justified.
The stipulation that GSS intervention in police investigations be conducted on the basis of a preliminary and significant evidentiary basis for which the offense is security-related or was executed to undermine the democratic regime and its institutions, per a narrow interpretation of the term, and to determine that such intervention cease as soon as it grows clear that suspicion regarding security-related motives, or motives intended to disrupt order in the democratic regime, dissipates or weakens.