(JNi.media) Limor Peled, Chair of the Israeli State Attorneys’ Union, on Monday sent a letter to the state attorneys demanding that they refrain from cooperating with the prosecution audit commission until its status is anchored in legislation, Ha’aretz reported Monday. The letter is in direct opposition to instructions sent by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi).
The prosecutors’ union chair appears adamant in attempting to block Shaked’s move, which would enhance the control of the legislative and executive branches over judiciary decisions—a democratizing direction Shaked has been pursuing.
Shaked has revealed recently that she weighs splitting up the state attorney’s office and the AG, while placing both of them under the ministry’s control.
Justice Minister Shaked told Ha’aretz in response that “if the prosecutors’ union decided to take this step, I see it as a bullying, unwise, not particularly fair and arrogant act.”
“The Justice Minister and the Attorney General made it clear that the audit commission was established under their ‘administrative authority.’ With all due respect, we believe that there is no ‘administrative authority’ for the establishment of an independent body, external and internal, to audit/discipline [prosecutors], and since it has become clear that the commission operates in a disorderly and inappropriate format, its activity should be stopped and it must not be allowed to continue operating in the same format.”
Last October, retired judge Eliezer Goldberg (also former state comptroller and ombudsman for complaints against judges), published his report on the need to audit the prosecutor’s office with a strong recommendation that despite the opposition of the prosecutors the public should be allowed to file complaints against them. Goldberg recommend that the activity of the watchdog commission be regulated through legislation (currently it is founded on a government decree). He also favors making it possible to file complaints against the Attorney General, who to date has remained outside the reach of the audit commission.
The Goldberg report was a blow to the prosecution, the State Attorney and the Attorney General. Attorney General Weinstein objected to being subject to audits because he viewed the commission as being subordinate to his office, helping him monitor the prosecutor’s office. Placing both offices under the same auditing body would subject them to an equal review by the Justice Ministry, which may be a step in the direction–advocated by Shaked–to split the two department entirely.
The union’s decision came in response to a letter sent two weeks ago by Shaked and Weinstein to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, which stressed that until the completion of the corresponding legislative process authorizing it, the audit commission would continue its work: “We are currently examining how to implement the Goldberg committee’s recommendations in a legislation. Until the implementation of the format that will be decided, the commission will continue to act in its current format,” the Shaked and Weinstein letter said.
Union chair Peled on Monday went as far as to instruct her members not to cooperate with the commission, “including in responding, providing information, transferring cases, answering inquiries or meetings with commission officials and in any other way, directly or indirectly, both regarding systemic review and individual audits.” She also instructed her members, all state-employed attorneys, to not enter data into the computerized system, as it has been determined that the audit commission would have access to it.