Israel’s Public Defender’s Office has warned that the country likely suffers from “the non-negligible and not-insignificant phenomenon of innocents serving lengthy jail sentences” for crimes they did not commit.
In its annual report released Sunday, the Public Defender’s Office pointed to systemic problems which hamper the exposure of wrongful convictions.
It cited the State Prosecution’s regular objection to conduct new scientific tests on case evidence after legal proceedings have concluded — and its frequent refusals to transfer evidence for new testing in various cases; the recurrent destruction and loss of crucial evidence upon conclusion of legal proceedings; and the withholding of case files in old cases reviewed by the Public Defender for possible appeal.
The office further castigated law enforcement authorities for various failures, among them: lackluster probes into allegations of police violence, frequent failure to provide suspects with their right to consult an attorney prior to questioning, and nude full-body searches conducted without legal justification.
The report also noted that bureaucratic hurdles often create long delays in assigning minors to correctional facilities, leading to them spending lengthy periods in regular incarceration, and consequently making it more difficult to rehabilitate them.
In its report last year, the office took a critical look at conditions in Israel’s prisons, finding that widespread overcrowding has resulted in Israeli inmates receiving less than one third of the cell space allocated to the average prisoner in the West.
It also blasted the “inhumane” treatment of some prisoners placed in isolation, lack of adequate medical care at facilities, meager resources devoted to inmates with mental illnesses and a general lack of hygiene.