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Lawyers fighting for law changes in Israel to improve human rights

Marianne Azizi photo
Marianne AziziIsrael
Lawyers fighting for law changes in Israel to improve human rights
The need to reform family laws is more urgent than ever as family breakdown on the increase

The following is a report filed to the UNHRC by Ccf Israel (Coalition for Children and Family) - the UN Civil Society campaigning for reform.  Whilst a lengthy document, it gives an insight into the issues in Israel regarding democratic and fair laws.  Nothing has changed since the report was sent.  With poverty at a level of 36%, the rights for people are not affordable, and children are separated from parents with no recourse for justice.


Lists of Issues Prior to Reporting (LOIPR) – 4th Report In preparation of questions to pose to the State of Israel regarding its compliance with the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Coalition for Children and Family, a UN Civil society, in conjunction with other Israeli NGOs and groups fighting corruption in the Judiciary, this report is hereby presented together with proposed questions, in six areas: Family Courts, Juvenile Courts, Criminal Courts, Post Judgment Executions and Debt Collections, the Supreme Court of Justice and System Wide Deficiencies. 

FAMILY COURTS, ICCPR 2,3,17,18, 19, 23, 26 While other countries have opened family courts to the public, Israeli family courts are conducted behind closed doors. It is reported that it gives family court judges freedom to abuse powers, falsify transcripts, abuse litigants, dictate facts not in evidence into the record, and in general dispense with any procedural and substantive rights, because nobody in the Courtroom can witness the Judge’s conduct or temper. Judges feel they are immune from any criticism, especially since they control what goes into the record (transcript). Requests to the Ministry of Justice to examine opening up the closed doors of the family courts were declined, on the theory that it will attack journalists seeking details of fornication and other sexually “juicy” stories. However, family courts in the UK and US have opened without any known problems.

Is the Government willing to review opening up the family courts for audience, and for self-recording to prevent false and inaccurate transcripts?

Family laws of Israel are laced with statutory discrimination against men, including automatic custody to women, and full exemption to women from participation in child support. See Section 25 of Israel’s Legal Capacity and Guardianship Law of 1962. Even in the odd case where a man wins custody, the non custodian wife is exempt from paying child support. Is the Government willing to eradicate any and all statutes that contain gender preference or gender discrimination, or impact of discrimination based on sex, from its laws?

Family laws in Israel differentiate among citizens based on the attributed “religion”. Religious law is enforced even against non- religious people, without an option to opt out of the religious laws that are applicable in rabbinical courts (dissolution of marriage) and in family courts (custody preference to women and child support exemption to women). Is the Government willing to concede that it violates the human right to freedom from religion and offer opt out mechanism, to those whose lives, choices or conduct are non-religious?

Family Courts, by law, may dispense with evidence. In most cases, witnesses such as social workers are not cross examined, requests by men to summon witnesses are denied, and in some cases, Judgments are rendered without trials at all. In pendente lite applications for interim measures, evidence is not required at all, and judges render decisions based on their momentary gut reaction. Requests to the Ministry of Justice to consider reform that would reintroduce the standard civil evidence rules (full evidentiary trials, adherence to rules, ability to cross examine) were denied. Is there a specific reason why the Government would not reintroduce evidence rules into family courts?

In custody and child access cases, the judges refuse to adjudicate cases. Instead they delegate all decision making to state paid social workers, who are trained in gender studies and female empowerment. The decision making is solely based on intuitions, impressions, libel, hearsay and coerced therapies, coerced psychiatric evaluations, coerced parental fitness tests, psycho-diagnostic exam, and massive referrals to “Contact Centers”. Thus, Israel fails to provide judicial remedies for custody and child access cases, depriving the litigants of their rights for judicial redress. What are the reasons for delegating each custody and child access to a social worker, and why litigants cannot opt out of the coerced welfare/social justice system?

The Government appoints to family court judges, who vouch in advance their preference to women, and hatred to men. One such Magistrate, Tamar Snunit Forer, a radical/militant feminist, even declared that she wishes to be appointed as judge to influence from the inside at sources of power her agenda of promoting women at the expense of men. Another judge, Rivka Mekayes has tormented men for years, stripped them of their assets and children, and sent many to jail solely in order to silence them. Why is the Government appointing biased persons to positions of power where the opportunity for abuse is rampant, and self -declared in advance, and what mechanism, can be employed to prevent such gender- biased judicial appointments?

Moreover, the Committee to Appoint Judges is secretive, laced with shady “deals”, and devoid of public participation. Appeals from family court are almost unaffordable.  Routinely, the woman wins on every case she opens, and she even collects $2,000 in costs per case (each “case” is separate: custody, child support, equitable distribution). Therefore, women never have to need appeals. It is the men’s problem, as they are always the losers in family court. To dissuade the man from proceeding with appeals, the District Court quires a $2,500 to $4,000 bond. That is unaffordable to most men, and thus most men have no opportunity to appeal. This also encourages judges at the trial level to bend the laws, because the likelihood of an appeal reversing their order is slim.

By contrast, in the United States, a divorce complaint is a 2-3 page document, easy to self represent, fees are minimal, and in some cases, none, risk of fees is minimal, and no bond is required on appeal. There are more divorces in the US than Israel. Is the Government willing to make family court more user friendly: publish the laws, offer self represented forms, offer tables and formulas for easy calculation of child support, combine all aspects of family court litigation into one case, expedite trial dates to 6 months from filing (instead of 3 to 9 years from filing), and cancel the bond requirement on appeal?

During pendency of child access proceedings 25% of the men are sent to “contact Centers”. These are supervised visitations in a prison like setting. The rate of supervised visitation in the U.S. is 1% to 2%, and in Australia 4%. It is sufficient for a child services social worker to invoke “lack of mutual trust” to instruct visitations at a Contact Center. This results in 4 hours a month with the child and absolute exclusion of the extended family and grandparents. This constitutes deprivation of liberty and family rights per se. A Petition to the Supreme Court to stop these practices, Bagatz 2111/11, was denied. Is the Government willing to commit to no more than 4% contact center referrals out of the caseload of social workers, and restrict it to cases of actual violence which was proved by conclusive evidence?

JUVENILE COURTS, ICCPR 9, 10, 14, 17, 23, 25. At juvenile court, proceedings are conducted to remove children from their biological parent(s) and place them in adoptions, foster homes and other outplacement facilities, such as privatized orphanage homes. This affects the most impoverished sector of society, single mothers and maladapted immigrants, Ethiopians and Russians. Already Israel’s number of children living outside their natural home is the highest in the world (5% as opposed to 0.5% world average). Here too, there are problems with ex parte orders of child removal, lack of ability to defend such proceedings, lack of funds to fight the child removal, as well as falsified transcripts by Judges, lack of adherence to evidentiary rules and libelous/hearsay foundation. Ex parte orders may result in dispatch of policemen to seize children from their parents’ homes or schools, in a procedure that is brutal, degrading and devastating, much to the surprised of the shocked parents, based on rumors or neighbor’s vindictive complaint alone. Is the government willing to open up these trials, appoint counsel to the indigent, cancel the use of ex parte orders, and implement measures to rehabilitate children within the extended families?

Children may be removed by social services from parents for up to seven days without even opening a court case (Section 11 of the Juvenile Act). There is no need for evidence or Court approval. In one such recent case, a teenage woman was removed from her parents, because someone told a social worker that the Jewish girl was dating an Arab boy. After seven days, on application to the Juvenile Court, the removal can be extended to 60 days, again without evidence, and without the ability for the parents to contest it. Interim orders of child removal can be issued for 365 days without a trial or evidence, solely upon the application of a social worker. Expert opinions from experts who never saw the children are submitted to the Judges “in camera” without disclosure to the parents. While Section 14 requires a hearing every three months, the law is ignored, and decisions to extend removals are issued without hearings. Whereas a detention of an adult in the criminal system requires a judicial order, a detention of a minor (emergency removal of a minor to a closed emergency lock up facility), does not require any judicial consent. Decisions, orders and Judgments of the Juvenile Court are not published at all, not even under the moniker “Jane Doe”. The public does not even know what precedents apply, and what arguments may be used to contest a child removal, because they are not published. Transcripts at Juvenile Court, in the rare cases a parent is given opportunity to be heard, are redacted or sanitized, as the Judges immunize themselves from an appeal. In one case, a three hour testimony was redacted by a Judge to a three line statement. These transcripts are also subject to gag orders, thus foreclosing the right of the public to know, foreclosing public scrutiny and covering up malpractice and malicious retaliations against natural parents.

Is the Government willing to allow full verbatim transcripts, recordation of proceedings, moratorium on ex parte proceedings, provide the parent with all evidence against him at earliest point possible, publish judgments, and open up the Court for teams of public inspectors and journalists?

CRIMINAL COURTS, ICCPR 2, 3, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17. In rape, sexual harassment and family violence, the Government has dispensed with any need for corroboration or solid external evidence, other than the words of the complainant. As a result, thousands of men are indicted and convicted without solid evidence, and incarcerated needlessly. A conviction may be sustained on appeal based on impression of the victim’s testimony alone, i.e. how she testified but not what she testified about. Judges may discount and ignore evidence based on their own intuitions, own morality, beliefs and private experiences. Conviction can also be sustained based on hypnosis and even “memory refreshment” after 20 years. Attorney General Guideline 2.5 exempts women from criminal liability for false reports. This encourages women to lodge baseless complaints solely to gain economic advantages. In divorce cases, women can obtain the benefits of exclusion of the man from the marital home, exclusive occupancy and restrictions on child access. In other cases, illegal female workers may be induced to file such complaints to get immigration/residency rights. In other cases, it is used purely for vindictive reasons. Israel’s violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) is draconian and its impact results in thousands of unwarranted convictions, ex parte orders of removal from home, orders of protection, and the stripping of all procedural and substantive human rights from the judicial process. It has not been reviewed since its enactment, even though it was based on the assumption that Israeli men are the most violent men in the world. No statistical data comparing the alleged violence in Israel to other OECD countries is available. The impact on society, families and citizens has never been examined. VAWA allows convictions in offences that have not yet occurred. This allows for convictions without evidence, because there is no evidence for an offense that did not occur. Men can be convicted and incarcerated without even committing any crime. It is sufficient that a woman alleges that she “feels threatened”. The punishment in VAWA convictions has been severely aggravated.

There is no proportionality to the sentences of regular offenses, and similar VAWA offenses. The rate of convictions itself is about 99.8 – 99.9%. The government refuses to employ polygraph or other screening mechanisms in VAWA prosecutions to prevent abuse and violations of civil rights. Under VAWA, when the police issue an order enjoining a man from entering his home, (because the woman “feels threatened”), the Government refuses to provide an alternative place to stay. Some men become homeless, and sleep in their car or on the beach. Some go to their mothers. Those who request the police to ensure a place for them to stay, are told that they can voluntarily check themselves into jail, where they will get shelter. Female criminals are sentenced to dramatically lower punishments than males. Some offenses (rape) are phrased to cover only men. For example, there is no law criminalizing rape by a woman (e.g. female teacher have sex with a minor schoolboy). Convictions on similar circumstances will yield several years of imprisonment to a male, and a few months of community service to females. The rates of plea bargains is 90%. Of the remaining 10%, 99.8% are convicted. Thus, only few cases catch the public attention.

One such case, which best shows Israel’s overzealousness to convict is Sabar Kashur’s conviction by Judge Yoram Noam. Mr. Kashur, a married Arab met an Jewish woman and identified himself as a Jewish man. Within minutes they had casual consensual sex. When the woman found he was not Jewish, she filed rape charges. The Court convicted him on rape by deceit charges, and sentenced him to 18 months in jail. The Judge’s words: the Court must protect the public interest against sophisticated criminals with a smooth tongue and sweet talking, who can lead astray innocent victims at the unbearable price of the sanctity of their bodies and souls,” and added “If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated”. The sophisticated rape crime was impersonation as a Jew for purposes of consensual sex.

In other cases, e.g. Moshe Gorelik was convicted on rape charges, solely based on a woman’s claim that a finger was inserted under the skirt to her private parts, inside a of none-existing car in a busy street without witnesses. Judges falsified indictment and evidences, issued psychiatric opinion.

Other notable case, Aleksey Siygin, (stories, no evidence, ignoring professional medical opinion), Roman Zadorov (ignoring blood, bloody fingerprints and hair of the real attacker found at scene in the fist of victim, false note that the court didn’t receive these materials), and Moshe Katzav (former president, closed doors). In cases of sexual crime the court can convict men contrary to the position of prosecution and all evidences, just on the base of the belief of the judges. Detention and incarceration standards are inhumane. Space in almost all cases is 2.5 sq. meters per person even the law requires 4.5 sq.meters. No blankets or basic necessities are supplies. Windows are tiny, and no ventilated air. No separation of smoking and non-smoking. Judges send people to jail knowing that the conditions of imprisoning will violate the law.

POST JUDGMENT EXECUTIONS AND DEBT COLLECTIONS, ICCPR 2 In Israel, the Post Judgment Executions and Debt Collections Authority )the “Authority” or ”Hotzlap”) handled about 3,600,000 cases by the end of 2010 in a country with 5,000,000 adults. Every three months 100,000 more cases are opened. Thus, the Authority affects an enormous part of Israeli society. Normally elsewhere in the world the assumption is that debts are collected following judgments after an adversarial trial, the creditor proved his case, and the debtor defended the case, may be enforced through collection authorities. In Israel, however, collections may skip the Courts and be enforced directly at the Authority. Debts under 50,000 NIS ($12,500) may be submitted for collection without first obtaining a judgment. In many cases this invites fraud as the Authority does not inspect what is filed, it simply dockets the document and collects a fee. This is fertile ground for abuse. It robs the debtors of the right to trial, and it unleashes a barrage of draconian measure that is impossible to defend, or stop.

The Supreme Court of Israel has refused to hear a Petition of 100 victims claiming that each petitioner must pursue an independent petition. The Ministry of Justice is considering even more draconian measures, since it enhances the State’s budget. The Authority imposes automatic attorney fees and interest rates that are unpublished and highly usurious. In many cases, debts can escalate very fast to double, triple or quadruple of the principal amount, without any way for the debtor to verify the interest rate or even contest it. It is almost impossible to pay a debt in monthly installments because of the usurious compounded rates, and excessive attorney fees. Citizens cannot protect their rights or defend themselves in the Authority’s management of the Collection procedures.

The Authority is quick to issue ex parte orders that are vexatious in nature such as ne exeat injunctions, passport non renewal, driving license non renewal, termination of credit cards and lines of credit and closure of bank accounts. This can happen ex parte and without the debtors’ knowledge. Thus debtors properties and civil liberties are violated especially when their right to travel and leave the country are restricted due to small amount (even $300), and even drivers whose livelihood depends on their driving license lose the ability to earn a living. When credit cards are cancelled, it means that the credit card company will open a collection case very shortly, thus adding more financial hardship to the debtor’s ability to pay the original debts.

This affects almost one sixth of the population. Section 66(a) of the Executions Law is much criticized as it a brutal and draconian collection measures that are more punitive than effective, and only seal the fate of the debtor to be impoverished for life and unable to earn a living. In almost all post judgment debt collection cases within the Authority debtors receive no information as to transactions requested by the creditor’s attorneys, such as bank account liens or wage garnishment. Those are granted simply upon request, ex parte, without even submitting an application. The attorneys for the creditors are simply communicating online with the Authority’s computer, pressing buttons and requesting a myriad of draconian measures.

Creditors are informed laconically three months after the lien, that they must physically go to the Authority’s offices to pick up a copy of the Order. To collect a copy they must pay $1 per page. If there is a paper application on file, they can pay hundreds of dollars just to see what is in their files. Since creditor’s can choose the locations of the Authority’s office to open a collection case, they can inflict on a debtor a 100 km or even 300 km travel to a Hotzlap office just to get a copy of an Order or decision. In case of child support enforcement at the Hotzlap Authority, hearings on incarceration of men are conducted without counsel made available to the indigent. Thus proceedings which result in incarceration violate the debtor’s right to counsel.

These proceedings to incarcerate men for not paying child support never result in payment, both because the child support levels in Israel are unaffordable (sometimes 80% of the salary and up to 150%), and because 100% of the salary is garnished anyway. These proceedings are purely punitive. Therefore, they require counsel. ICCPR 14 (3). It is noteworthy that municipalities are exempt from collection via courts or the Authority. See, Tax Ordinance (Collection), a/k/a “Administrative Collection”. Cities and Municipalities may collect city taxes, water bills, or parking tickets by levying directly upon bank accounts. It is sufficient that city clerk signs a notice of lien in order to seize bank accounts. These liens are not reviewable in Courts and there is no way to contest them. No warning or letters are required. Notice of the bank lien is sent by mail 3 weeks thereafter. These are highly draconian collection methods.

SUPREME COURT OF JUSTICE Appointments are secretive and lack public participation. Judges with prior conflict of interest or obvious bias refuse to recuse themselves. Judges with family members in private practice or the State Attorney’s office, refuse to recuse themselves even when a conflict of interest is very high. Even when a judge used to represent a party in the past, it is hard to obtain a recusal. Nepotism and favors to friends and family are common place. Judges have a high bias in favor of the Government and against the ordinary citizen. When a Government requests a bogus adjournment, it is routinely granted. When the Government is late or missing a deadline, it is routinely excused.

When a private litigant seeks adjournment or misses a short deadlines, penalties of between $1,000 to $1,500 may be easily assessed. Judges routinely scare away ordinary citizens, and threaten them to withdraw their petition, under the threat of assessing painful costs and sanctions of $7,500 to $15,000. Given this scenario of judicial temper and arrogance, most ordinary men are simply afraid to even come near the Supreme Court of Israel.

ICCPR 2. There have been reported cases of personal vindictiveness by Supreme Court Judges against attorneys who have published critique against the Supreme Court Judge’s. There is no transcript. It is impossible to hear anything. Clients are not allowed to sit next to attorneys or respond to questions directed to them. Judges refuse to account to the public about fortunes they amassed, which are disproportional to their salaries. The lists of conflict of interest and full resumes of the judges is concealed from the public.

SYSTEM WIDE Ne Exeat Orders. See ICCPR Art. 12. An extraordinary number of citizens are precluded from leaving the State of Israel. At the Post Judgment Executions Authority, debtors owing a mere 500 NIS ($125) may be precluded from leaving the country. Child support debtors may be precluded automatically, upon an ex parte request, even if the debt is up to date. Even tourists who have no roots to Israel may be restrained from leaving the country for extended durations.

For example, a California resident is trapped in Israel on a $500,000 bond for three years. A French tourist was restrained, because his French wife opened a divorce case in Israel during vacation. A Thai resident who fathered a child 20 years ago, was invited by the mother to meet his child, and upon arrival was restrained from leaving. The procedures for issuing ne exeat orders is always ex parte, and it is hard to vacate or reverse it, without posting outrageous bonds and guarantors. There is almost no equivalent to that in any other “normal” country.

The figures as to the persons so restrained are unpublished. No publication of the laws of Israel. The Government refuses to publish its laws and regulations in one place for free. The citizens have no way to know what the laws are. The Government licenses private companies to sell costly subscriptions to lawyers, but the public must consult a lawyer. There is no excuse why the Government does not publish its own laws and regulations in one place for free. Is the Government willing to publish its laws to the public free of charge? Freedom of Information ACT. For freedom of Information requests (“FOIA”) citizens must pay a $25 fee. Routinely, they never receive what they want. They get a laconic letter that states that “the requests require too much labor” or that an exception applies. If judicial review is requested, the fee is $500. Once it is filed, it can take a year or two for the case to proceed. The information may be stale or denied.

This dissuades the public from even trying to expose government records. In the interest of transparency and open government, is the State willing to waive fees for FOIA requests, and FOIA petitions to the District Court. Internal adoption of ICCPR and ICESCR. Israel refuses to adopt the ICCPR internally and make it binding. The same applies to ICESCR. Israel also refuses to translate to Hebrew the Reports that it files with the UN. By doing so, Israel excludes itself from the family of nations who adhere to the international standards of human rights.

#israel, #Family laws, #Prevention of travel, #No Exit Orders, #Parental Alienation, #Legal Discrimination, #Child Support, #Freedom of Information, #children's rights, #UNCRC, #UNHRC