This morning Shurat HaDin filed a petition to the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem asking that the Israeli government be enjoined from proceeding with the release of Arab prisoners pursuant to the second stage of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal.
According to the agreement negotiated between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization in October of this year, Israel is obligated to release another 550 Arab prisoners by Sunday, December 18th. Many of the families of terror victims Shurat HaDin represents had contacted us during the first stage of the prisoner release in October asking us if the those who murdered and maimed their loved ones were being set free from prison. The panicked manner in which the first release was rushed forward by the government precluded the possibility of the families, many of whom live outside of Israel, from obtaining information or being provided a fair opportunity to react.
The Shurat HaDin petition alleges that this second planned release is another blatant violation of the Crime Victim’s Rights Act ( 2001), which clearly provides in regulation 16, that crime victims have the right to respond within 14 days of the date upon which they are given notice that a criminal who has injured them or their family member is being considered for a pardon or sentence reduction. The families of the victims are once again be denied the 14 days provided by law.
The first phase of the Shalit release was carried out with tremendous haste as the government publicly stated that it had to carry out the deal with Hamas within 48 hours of it could possibly collapse and the kidnapped Israeli soldier could be lost forever. No details of this implausible justification was ever provided to the public, however.
This second phase of the agreement was announced at the same time back in October. Up until this morning, however, the government has refused to post the list of prisoners who will now be released. Again the State is insisting that the release take place in about 48 hours which is barely sufficient time to allow the families of the victims to determine if one of the terrorists tagged to be released is connected to their attack much less provide them an adequate opportunity to be heard on the matter.
In a democratic state, all citizens who oppose the government’s policy must be given adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard by neutral judicial officers. As the representative of bereaved families, we can say with certainty — they feel hijacked by this decision to again exclude them. Once again this time round, we have had to rely on our own sources and online news reports from the terrorist organizations themselves – because only they have provided real-time information concerning the situation. It’s absurd that the Israeli government has again waited until the last moment possible to provide details of the planned release. The Shurat HaDin court petition contends that there is no information being provided concerning the criteria for release of these terrorists and so filing objections to their release – or the potential release of other terrorists has proven impossible.
In addition, the Shurat HaDin petition notes that the United States government has notified Israel that terrorists who have murdered American citizens should not be released as some were in the first stage of the deal. The petition cites the case of Dr. Alan Bauer, a U.S. citizen living in Israel, who, together with his son, was injured in the attack on King George Street in Jerusalem in 2002. In recent weeks, Bauer has been in contact with the U.S. Embassy and Justice Department to put the American government on notice that those who have killed and injured Americans may have been freed without the necessary public debate. The U.S. Embassy has publicly stated that it has notified the Israeli government that it opposes the release of terrorists who have killed or maimed American citizens.
The rushing to complete this release makes the Israeli public again feel as if the government is ‘getting away’ with something. The government is not allowing an in-depth discussion of this release, as would be worthy of a country that prides itself on being the Middle East’s only democratic state.
To link to a story in the Jerusalem Post about the Shurat HaDin High Court case click here.