In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Orders Public Security Minister to Cancel Promotion of Senior Police Commander Benzi Sau as it Contradicts Recommendations of the Official Or Commission of Inquiry
On 24 October 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the promotion of Benzi Sau, a senior police commander during the October 2000 protest demonstrations, by the Minister of Public Security should be cancelled as it contradicts the conclusions of the official Or Commission of Inquiry. The Court ordered Sau to resign from his current position as Head of the Minister of Public Security’s Operational Staff Unit within one month.
On 1 June 2006, Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal submitted a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Committee of the Victims’ Families (October 2000) and in Adalah’s own name, seeking the cancellation of Sau’s promotion in May 2006 by the Minister of Public Security, Avi Dichter. Sau was in command of police forces located in and around the Arab town of Umm al-Fahem in October 2000, and was among those responsible for ordering the use of rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition by snipers and police officers, which resulted in the deaths of three Arab youth - Mr. Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad (19), Mr. Ahmed Jabareen (18), and Mr. Mohammed Jabareen (23) - and the injury of tens of others.
Attorney Dalal argued in the petition that Sau’s promotion contradicted the recommendations of the official Or Commission of Inquiry, which state that as a result of Sau’s actions in October 2000, he should not be promoted in rank or position for a period of four years or until 1 September 2007.
In its 2-1 decision, the Supreme Court by Justices A. Procaccia and S. Jubran, found that Sau’s new appointment ran contrary to the Or Commission’s recommendations, which were adopted by the government: “After the government found it fitting to adopt the Commission’s recommendations, this action should be seen as turning the recommendations into part of government policy.” The Court also ruled that it has the power of judicial review over the lack of implementation by the government of recommendations made by the Or Commission against specific individuals.’
The Court rejected the state’s contention that Sau’s new position did not constitute a promotion, and accepted the arguments of the petitioners. The Head of the Operational Staff Unit in the Ministry is responsible for coordinating between the Public Security Minister and the police, and holds much greater power and influence than Sau’s prior position as Border Police Commander during October 2000.
Supreme Court Justice E. Rubenstein dissented from the majority opinion. He argued that legally the Minister’s decision does not fall within the realm of extreme unreasonableness, and thus the Court should not intervene in the appointment.
It is Adalah’s position that: “The Supreme Court in effect stated that the Or Commission carried out a thorough investigation of the facts related to the events of October 2000 and that therefore its recommendations were important. Adalah will continue to follow developments and seek indictments and punishment against those responsible for the deaths of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and the injury of hundreds of others in October 2000.”