The right to be forgotten in Israel: Indictments are easy to find on Google. Less so acquittals or dropped charges

The story of Benny is a perfect example of the absurdity of implementing the principle of publicizing legal proceedings. The indictment filed against him is open to the public and, as a result, it appears in Google when searching for his name. This has had profound ramifications for his work and his private life. However, the withdrawal of that indictment is not in the public domain and does not come up in any internet search. A special committee established to find a solution never completed its work. And that’s not all: a law that would have shortened the period that a criminal record for minor crimes from 17 years to four, to help rehabilitate offenders, is not being implemented. Transparency, memory and justice – a Shomrim report.

The story of Benny is a perfect example of the absurdity of implementing the principle of publicizing legal proceedings. The indictment filed against him is open to the public and, as a result, it appears in Google when searching for his name. This has had profound ramifications for his work and his private life. However, the withdrawal of that indictment is not in the public domain and does not come up in any internet search. A special committee established to find a solution never completed its work. And that’s not all: a law that would have shortened the period that a criminal record for minor crimes from 17 years to four, to help rehabilitate offenders, is not being implemented. Transparency, memory and justice – a Shomrim report.

The story of Benny is a perfect example of the absurdity of implementing the principle of publicizing legal proceedings. The indictment filed against him is open to the public and, as a result, it appears in Google when searching for his name. This has had profound ramifications for his work and his private life. However, the withdrawal of that indictment is not in the public domain and does not come up in any internet search. A special committee established to find a solution never completed its work. And that’s not all: a law that would have shortened the period that a criminal record for minor crimes from 17 years to four, to help rehabilitate offenders, is not being implemented. Transparency, memory and justice – a Shomrim report.

Daniel Dolev

Photo: Shutterstock

February 9, 2022

Summary

The right to be forgotten, which has already become a basic right in many European countries, is starting to be recognized in Israel – but is facing a rocky road to implementation.

That is certainly the case when it comes to legal proceedings: by law, such proceedings are in the public domain and, as such, details are uploaded to the internet and can be found with a simple search for the name of anyone involved. But it seems that some of these cases – when an indictment is withdrawn or a defendant is exonerated – do not make it onto Google and mean that, in the collective digital memory, innocent people will be remembered as guilty forever. A special committee established in 2010 to examine the issue never completed its work.

The problems faced by Israeli citizens who have been indicted but who want to exercise their right to be “forgotten” do not end there, however. The Crime Register and Rehabilitation of Offenders Law was amended several years ago so that minor crimes would be erased after four years, rather than the 17 years previously stipulated. The goal was to allow someone convicted of a criminal offense to turn over a new leaf. However, for technical reasons linked to the state’s inability to implement this change, the amendment remains theoretical.

Guy Zomer: “We get calls from people with heartbreaking stories, who ask us to help get their names erased. We do not have the resources to look into their claims, which sometimes turn out to be total fabrications. In contrast, the courts, which are in any case exposed to many details and which can garner an unbiased opinion as to the sides in the case, can make such a determination.”

Benny (not his real name): “I’m in a profession in which you need a clean record to work. During the investigation, I was worried that I wouldn’t be given my license after finishing intensive and very difficult studies, but it all came to an end. The case was closed and they even withdrew the indictment. I don’t have a criminal history or record. Nonetheless, after it was all over, I did a search for my name on the internet and I was stunned to discover that, online, the stain on my name is still there.”

This is a summary of shomrim's story published in Hebrew.
To read the full story click here.