HCJ 2662/09 Movement for Freedom of Information V Prime Minister’s Office

Petition Submission Date: 24.3.2009

Petition Description: The Movement for Freedom of Information and Yesh Din petitioned the High Court against the Shin Bet and the Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the Shin Bet, asking the Court to instruct the Shin Bet to provide statistics on orders limiting contact between Palestinian detainees and their lawyers.

Military law in the West Bank determines that the Shin Bet is authorized to prevent meetings between a detainee and his/her lawyer for a period of up to 15 days from the day or arrest, “if it finds it necessary for reasons of security in the area or it benefits the investigation.” The Court is authorized to extend the 15-day period by an additional 15 days.

The goal of the petition was not to challenge this practice, but to spark a public debate on the very existence of the practice, by presenting statistical information on the frequency of its use.

The petition stated that the High Court found had in the past that preventing such meetings inherently caused a grave violation of prisoner’s rights, “and as such, in light of the importance of the right to consult a lawyer, it is clearly in the public’s interest to debate the extent this authority uses it power to prevent meetings between prisoners and their representatives.” The petition demanded the Shin Bet detail the number of Palestinian detainees prevented from meeting with their counsel by the head of the Shin Bet investigative team; data on the average amount of time a lawyer was prevented from meeting with the detainee; provide the information broken down by year and the total number of Palestinians interrogated by the Shin Bet between 2004-2008. The petition claimed that providing this statistical information does not endanger national security.

The State objected to the petition based on the claim of “state security”, and submitted classified information to the court. During the hearing, ex parte, the State Attorney claimed that this was “information that terror organizations would love to obtain.” The Court tried to reach a compromise whereby the information would be partially published, however it ultimately determined that “accepting the petition, even partially, could harm national security,” and as such, the High Court rejected the petition. As a result of the decision, Yesh Din issued a statement that the significance of the decision is the prevention of the ability to hold public debate on the grave violation of prisoners’ rights.

Petition Status: petition rejected