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Sa’ar says he’ll advance Basic Law on criminal defendants’ rights

Justice minister seeking to enshrine rights in semi-constitutional legislation; hopes opposition parties will support the move

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on July 6, 2021. (Amit Shabi/POOL)
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on July 6, 2021. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced Tuesday he intends to advance legislation to better protect the rights of defendants during criminal proceedings.

Sa’ar instructed Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari to formulate a draft of a bill to advance the so-called Basic Law of Legal Rights.

The semi-constitutional Basic Law would enshrine and fortify the rights of citizens facing criminal proceedings, according to Sa’ar.

The law would include the right to a presumption of innocence, as well as an assurance that a person cannot be charged with a crime if at the time of the offense there was no appropriate law in place.

“Human rights in situations of weakness have always been a worthy and important thing to me,” Sa’ar said in a statement. He said he is convinced the law will pass after he completes the groundwork and presents it to his coalition partners.

He said he hoped the opposition would also support the law when it is brought before the Knesset.

Right-wing opposition parties have so far refused to vote in favor of any coalition legislation even if they ideologically support it — such as an extension to a ban on Palestinians with Israeli spouses getting Israeli citizenship — in an effort to cast the government as impotent.

Basic Laws are the closest thing Israel has to a constitution, and some of them require a Knesset supermajority to be changed. The 13th and latest was the controversial Nation-State law.

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