Courthouse staff went home early, detainee spent Shabbat behind bars

Monday, February 13, 2023, 9:28 Honenu director Shmuel (Zangi) Meidad wrote a letter to the Administration of Courts asking them to examine how it happened that a detainee was left in remand for an entire Shabbat because courthouse workers were absent, contrary to the regulations, which prevented a hearing on the appeal he had filed from being held. Please note that according to court regulations, courts must remain open on Friday until two hours before the onset of Shabbat.

In his letter, summarized below, Meidad detailed the chain of events:

On Thursday, 2/2/2023, our client was detained on suspicion of committing violent offenses during an altercation between Jewish and Arab youths in East Jerusalem. We appointed Attorney Daniel Shimshilashvili to represent him. The following day, Friday, a hearing was held at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court and our client’s remand was extended until Sunday. The hearing finished at 13:00 and immediately afterward Attorney Shimshilashvili filed an urgent appeal on the decision with the Jerusalem District Court. However, the appeal was not adjudicated on the same day.

Immediately after filing the appeal, Attorney Shimshilashvili arrived at the District Court where he met the duty judge who stated that the courthouse staff – secretaries, court reporters, and the other employees – had already gone home because the onset of Shabbat was approaching. A citizen was prevented from bringing his claims before a court due to the negligence and laziness of the courthouse employees. It is unacceptable that three hours before the onset of Shabbat the court was not still in session. Detention hearings, among them appeals on extensions, are crucial matters that necessitate the ability to rapidly and effectively respond and hold a hearing, even at inconvenient times. A detainee was held in remand when he could have been released and spared a lengthy stay at a detention center.

Although the incident described above is an exception, it must be examined in a professional manner so that it will not be repeated. The regulations for scheduling hearings in detention cases on Fridays and holiday eves must be clearly set. Discussion of human rights is currently a prominent issue, and therefore it is expected that the rights of suspects and detainees, which are at times neglected and ignored in public discourse, will be given due attention.

Attorney Daniel Shimshilashvili, who is representing the detainee, stated, “When the matter at hand is crucial decisions and basic human rights, it is expected that the courts will give a full response in the framework of the times set by law. Unfortunately, the detainee was deprived of his right to stand before a court, and he was left in remand over Shabbat, only because the Jerusalem District Court did not have secretarial staff and court reporters. I would like to express my appreciation to the Honorable Judge Hagit Mak-Kalmanovitch, who noticed my plight and approached me while I was at the gates of the courthouse. However, she was unable to assist me in the face of the fait accompli of the lack of essential tools to hold a hearing on the appeal. I hope that the Administration of Courts will draw the necessary conclusions in order to prevent similar occurrences.”

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