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Israel: Amendment Provides Sex Offense Victims Right to Select Gender of Interviewer

(Jan. 7, 2015) On December 10, 2014, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Rights of Victims of Crime (Amendment No. 11) Law, amending the 2001 Rights of Victims of Crime Law. (Amendment Law (5775-2014), Knesset website [scroll down to appropriate link on the right]; Rights of Victims of Crime Law, 5761-2001, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, Israel’s Official Gazette] 5761 No. 1782, p. 183, as amended (both in Hebrew); up-to-date texts of this and other laws referred to in this article are available by subscription from NEVO LEGAL DATABASE (in Hebrew).)

The objective of the Rights of Victims of Crime Law is “to determine by law the rights of a crime victim and to protect his/her human dignity, without harming the legal rights of suspects, defendants, or [persons already] sentenced.” (Rights of Victims of Crime Law, § 1.) The Law defines a “victim of crime” as a person “who was directly harmed by an offense, as well as a family member of a person whose death was caused by the offense, excluding the suspect, the defendant, or the sentenced … .” (Id.) A victim, in addition to having other legal rights, may usually choose a person to be present during his/her interview by the Israel police or by the Ministry of Justice Department of Investigation of Policemen (Id. § 14.)

The Amendment Law recognizes an additional right in connection with the questioning of victims, which specifically applies to victims of sex offenses: they have a right to be informed of the option of selecting the gender of the officer assigned to interview them. (Amendment Law § 1, adding § 14A(c) to the Rights of Victims of Crime Law.) The victim’s selection of the interviewer based on gender must be complied with unless:

(1) the supervising officer believes for special reasons, which must be recorded, that the request cannot be followed; or
(2) the investigator responsible for the investigation believes for special reasons, which must be recorded, that the selection will harm the investigation and that because of the matter’s urgency, the supervising officer’s accommodation of the request cannot be accepted. (Id., adding § 14A(a) to the Law.)

If the victim’s request has not been followed, he or she should be questioned in the presence of a policeman/woman or an employee of the investigating body requested by the victim, if that person is available at the time and place of the interview. (Id., adding § 14A(b) to the Law.)

Although full implementation of the Amendment Law is delayed until January 1, 2018, investigative bodies are under an obligation to apply its provisions even before this date to the extent possible under their respective procedures. (Id. § 2.)