Tough questions at NSW Board of Deputies plenum

March 20, 2013 by Judy Singer
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Professor of Law, Tim McCormack, faced tough questions from members of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on the recently published Turkel Commission Report commissioned by the Israeli government.

Professor Tim McCormack presenting the only known hard copy of the Turkel II Report in Australia to ECAJ ED Peter Wertheim

Professor Tim McCormack presenting the only known hard copy of the Turkel II Report in Australia to ECAJ ED Peter Wertheim

Professor McCormack was appointed by the Israeli government as one of two international observers for Phase 2 of the Turkel Commission of Enquiry into Israel’s processes for investigation of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law.  PM Netanyahu has agreed to appoint a working party to consider the recommendations of the report.

Prof McCormack praised Israel for commissioning what he called a ground-breaking enquiry on what constitutes effective investigation of war crimes. He predicted that the report would be a milestone in International Law.  Already the head of the Australian Defence Forces’s Investigative Service was keen to sit down with him to discuss the findings.

The Turkel report’s recommendations were hard-hitting and pulled no punches, Prof McCormack told the deputies. Key points were that all interrogations should be video-recorded, that all complaints against the IDF, Shabak or the police force should be handled by an independent external body, and that there should be a separation of the powers of Israel’s Military Advocate General.

In response to the pointed question of whether “future conflicts should be run by lawyers or generals”, Prof replied that he believed that it was important that commanding officers have informed choices, and pointed to the Australian Defence Force which consistently deploys legal officers with every contingent.

Prof McCormack reassured the audience that he was aware of the constant existential threat that Israel was under, but dismissed the “ticking time bomb” justification of torture. He said “The prohibition on torture is absolute”  adding that the Israel government itself doesn’t agree with ticking bomb theory,  and  in the event of a possible contest with Shabak of who is the ultimate authority, he hoped the rule of law would prevail.

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