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Prison official reveals illegal searches

Sunday, February 28, 2016, 11:45 On February 11, 2016 in a civil suit filed against the Israeli Prison Service and the Israeli Police, a Temple Mount activist was awarded 32,000 NIS, 14,000 NIS of which is compensation for illegal strip-searches which were carried out in the detention center of the Russian Compound. At a court deliberation on the suit, the testimony of a high-ranking Prison Service officer revealed that Prison Service guards have been carrying out dozens of illegal searches on detainees on a daily basis. According to the law, a detainee can be searched only with clothes on unless there is a reasonable suspicion that he will smuggle an object into the detention center. The plaintiff, who was detained after praying on the Temple Mount, was strip-searched twice despite his objections and sued the Prison Service. The officer, a Lieutenant Warden who serves in a senior position at the detention center, testified during the deliberations on the suit that the exception has become the rule and that every detainee who enters the detention center undergoes a strip search even if there is no suspicion of smuggling. According to her, the detainees are not strip-searched only in isolated cases, such as a man charged with refusing to give his wife a get (divorce according to Jewish law) or individuals detained for failing to pay certain debts. Honenu Attorney Menasheh Yado, who is representing the plaintiff, understood from the responses of the officer that the prison guards are completely unaware of the regulations and on a daily basis violate the rights of dozens of detainees and prisoners. The large number of complaints of illegal searches received by Honenu also indicates that they have become the norm in the Prison Service. Approximately one year ago in a comprehensive verdict on Hanamel Dorfman’s case, Judge Tamar Bar-Asher reviewed the subject of searches and ruled that the norms of the Prison Service are illegal. Subsequently the regulations were clarified and in some instances changed. However apparently the gap between what occurs in practice and the law is widening, and the prison guards are not following the law and the regulations. “The subject requires immediate attention because it is obvious from the verdict that the prison guards do not know the written norms and the result is that every day there are dozens of searches which are not in accordance with the law,” said Honenu Attorney Menasheh Yado, who is currently handling additional cases of illegal searches in Prison Service facilities. “The subject should have been straightened out after the verdict was given in Dorfman’s case. However unfortunately it was straightened out only on paper and the changes have not been implemented.” Judge Dorit Feinstein, who ruled on the compensation case, called on the State to either clarify or change the regulations concerning all aspects of searches in Prison Service facilities: “In my opinion the prison guards are not capable of exercising proper discretion concerning all aspects of searches if they do not know what a prisoner is suspected of and under which circumstances a prisoner is being brought before them. It would be proper for the State to consider amending or clarifying the regulations again, in order to allow genuine and proportional discretion to be exercised in each individual case.”

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