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Clemency policy to be eased for Israel’s upcoming 75th anniversary

New framework for pardons gives special consideration to the elderly, those with special needs who contributed to country’s security, rehabilitated adults convicted as minors

President Isaac Herzog announces special considerations for clemency in the lead up to Israel 75th year of independence, Jerusalem, Israel, October 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog announces special considerations for clemency in the lead up to Israel 75th year of independence, Jerusalem, Israel, October 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced the expansion of the use of presidential pardoning powers, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

Under the new policy, special consideration for clemency will be given to prisoners over the age of 75; disabled soldiers; veterans and individuals who made contributions to the country’s security; and adults convicted of crimes as a minor who have proven that they have been rehabilitated.

The announcement comes days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and keeps with the tradition in Jewish law of giving mercy to offenders who mend their ways.

“Amnesty on the occasion of a special national event is a known tradition in many societies and also Israel,” Herzog said, noting pardons given in the lead-up to past milestones in Israel’s history.

“I also request to take part in this tradition, to celebrate the values that are important to us, and witness in the 75th year of the State of Israel, the opportunity to extend a hand and give an opportunity to stop, observe, and see people who maybe, we don’t see enough,” he added.

The new framework was developed in cooperation with the Justice Ministry. Requests for pardons under the new rules can be made until May 13, 2024 — the day before Israel’s 76th Independence Day.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 12, 2022 (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/POOL)

Addressing the policy, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar touted his cooperation with Herzog on the matter, saying that he and the president share similar values.

“A humane society, and, in my opinion, to a large extent a Jewish society, is measured by its ability to spare even the people who harmed its protected values and moral foundations,” Sa’ar said.

Pardons will be dependent on the prisoner filing a request for clemency and careful consideration will be given to the particulars of each case, as well as the opinion of the justice minister. As a general rule, pardons will not be given to prisoners convicted of murder or manslaughter, security offenses, sex offenders, and those whose crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the Military Court.

Consideration will be given to the severity of the offense and the circumstances under which it was committed, the nature of the sentence, the length of detention, whether it was a recurrent offense, and participation in treatment and rehabilitation processes.

The regular presidential pardon system available for all prisoners will continue as usual.

Last September during the Jewish High Holidays, Herzog announced he would grant special consideration for soldiers who committed crimes during their teenage years, and were rehabilitated during their military services.

In December, Herzog adopted a stricter clemency policy towards sex offenders, domestic violence offenders, and traffic offenders, while adopting eased rules towards those convicted of using soft drugs.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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