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Israel's Proposed Counterterrorism Law

Counterterrorism LawIn recent years, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) increasingly warned about infringements of democratic freedoms in Israel.

Major concerns involve undermining free expression, human dignity, equality, pluralism, freedom of assembly and right to protest, and whether certain positions can be declared illegitimate, despite the democratic right of anyone to profess them.

Another major concern is Israel's proposed counterterrorism law. On August 3, it passed its first Knesset reading. It proposes to make current "state of emergency" measures against terrorism permanent law, including administrative detentions, control orders, and broad definitions of "terrorism" and "terror organizations."

The law smacks of police state justice that should worry dwindling numbers of less extreme MKs and all Israelis. Of course, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs already experience Israeli terror. Perhaps Jews will soon learn firsthand how unjustly repressive.

According to ACRI attorney Lila Margalit:

"(T)he bill includes elements that may lead law-abiding individuals and organizations to be deemed as 'terrorists.' (It) grants the State draconian and unchecked authority to take extreme measures against individuals and organizations without due process, on the basis of suspicion alone, without guaranteeing the minimal right of self-defense in court. The bill therefore provides a huge opening for the State to intervene in the public debate and to limit freedom of assembly and freedom of movement."

It also endangers free expression without which all other rights are at risk. If passed, the bill will legitimize police state justice, rendering anyone vulnerable to be judged guilty by accusation.

It's the same slippery slope America headed down post/9/11. In numerous ways, Israel replicated it. This law will add another nail in the coffin of a free society, leaving everyone unsafe - uncertain whether midnight justice will leave them isolated in detention, awaiting harsh rulings to keep them there for exercising rights they've now lost.

Israel's 2011 Counterterrorism Law (CL)

ACRI explained its provisions, subject to debate and amendments, including:

(1) Administrative Detentions and Control Orders

They let authorities arrest and detain individuals indefinitely without charge, based on secret withheld  evidence. Obama made if official policy in America. Yet under US, Israeli and international law, it's illegal, deplorable, and an affront to democratic principles.

Under Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, it's flagrantly illegal, violating the law's limitation clause - "namely, it is not consistent with the values of the State of Israel, and does not make use of the principle of proportionality."

Moreover, it's justified on alleged or concocted evidence, previous activities or motives. Yet due process is denied because no proof is needed. In other words, administrative detentions are police state measures used to imprison individuals without evidence or legal justification.

(2) Secret Evidence

CL institutionalizes widespread, routine use against any designated individuals or groups, without minimal discovery requirements to assure due process, and without considering alternate ways to prevent civil and human rights violations.

It's kangaroo court despotism at its worst, abolishing due process and ability of anyone to contest false charges. "There is no more serious injury to due process than to deny a suspect the opportunity to confront his accusers and to respond to the charges leveled against him."

Using likely fabricated charges based on secret evidence, justice is impossible. Abuse of power, gross discrimination, and political targeting assure innocent people will be unjustly punished.

(3) Vague, Overly Broad Definitions of Terrorism, Terrorist Organizations, and Members of Such Groups

CL ill-defines the terms "terrorist act," "terrorist organization," and "member of a terrorist group," effectively declaring those charged guilty by accusation, no evidence needed. That's despotism.

For example, under Article 2, "a member of a terrorist group" includes anyone who allegedly intends to become a member, without evidence to prove it.

Moreover, suspects bear the burden of proof they can't contest without knowledge of alleged evidence against them. Criminalizing individuals indiscriminately is political persecution against which they have no defense.

In addition, charges based on alleged intentions to join a terrorist group may either be false or misjudged verbally stated views. For example, opposing state policies constitutes free thought, opinion or expression, not malice aforethought to commit crimes.

(4) Legalizing Draconian Practices

Under temporary security order authority, suspects may be detained up to 96 hours for interrogations without judicial permission, based on the notion that interrupting questioning may compromise or undermine investigations.

Under current law, security suspects may be denied access to counsel up to 21 days, an intolerable practice but it exists. Removing judicial oversight means they can undergo lengthy draconian interrogations with no protections whatever against torture and other forms of abuse.

As a result, false confessions may be obtained to convict innocent people, what Palestinians commonly face, they, too, judged guilty by accusation, even children for alleged stone-throwing. They're imprisoned for it unjustly even if entirely innocent. And if guilty, they deserve no more than reprimands.

(5) Violating Free Expression

For example, Article 27 imposes three year prison terms for anyone "whose actions express solidarity or identification with (an alleged) terrorist group, including through publication of praise, support or sympathy for a terrorist group, waving its flag, display or publication of one of its symbols, or displaying, playing, or publicizing one of its slogans or anthems, if such an expression is made in public."

In other words, freely expressed views become crimes, even alleged support for wrongly designated terrorist groups.

(6) Re-Writing Criminal Law

CL establishes new rules contradicting fundamental criminal law principles. For example, Article 47 permits  hearsay exceptions, letting a suspect's alleged statement(s) be submitted as evidence, even if he or she isn't present in court because they reside outside Israel or aren't available for other reasons.

Although CL prohibits convictions this way, it permits hearsay used as corroborating evidence. Note also that most Israeli security cases rely largely on confessions extracted under torture, making them illegitimate in due process proceedings. But not in Israel where it's common practice against Palestinians. CL will allow it against Jews.

In addition, it equates alleged intent with actually committing a crime, imposing the same liability on both in violation of accepted criminal law tenets.

CL's provisions thus "turn law-abiding citizens and organizations (with no connections whatsoever to violent acts) into 'terrorists' " because Israel says so. It also authorizes unchecked, draconian executive powers, based on alleged suspicions, not hard evidence, leaving suspects unable to defend themselves.

As a result, CL effectively annuls due process/judicial fairness protections, leaving everyone potentially vulnerable to police state justice, that, of course, means none whatsoever.

Israel's extremist right-wing Knesset very likely will pass what no legitimate democracy would tolerate. In Israel and America, it's common practice, filling prison cells with innocent victims unjustly.

Against Muslims, Blacks and Latinos in America, as well as Palestinians in Israel, it goes unnoticed. When everyone in both countries is vulnerable, perhaps public awareness will take note and act. The alternative is too dire to imagine, but it's coming unless public outrage prevents it.

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