Families of Carmel fire victims say too early to grant medals

Families of Carmel fire victims say too early to grant medals

04 April 2011

published by www.haaretz.com

Israel — The Families of Prison Service workers who were killed in the Carmel blaze have appealed to the High Court to cancel the decision to posthumously grant Medals of Distinction to the families of officials who died in the tragic fire.

The appellants say that no medals should be distributed until the State Comptroller completes his investigation of the Carmel fire.

The families submitted their request a month after the decision was made to grant the Medal of Distinction to Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer, Deputy Commander Lior Boker and Chief Superintendent Itzik Malina, among others.

The fallen officers and cadets perished in the massive Carmel forest fire that burned for several days in December 2010, scorching large swaths of land, destroying many homes and killing several dozen people who became trapped in the ferocious flames.

The families’ committee, which consists of representatives of 37 of the families of Prison Service cadets that died in the blaze, contends that granting medals at this stage would be like “ripping open their wounds”.

The decision of Public Security Minister Aharonovitch and the Police Commissioner is “hasty, difficult to comprehend, and could very well skew the investigation in favor of the police,” according to the families’ committee.

“We cannot discount the possibility that the State Comptroller will point out any number of failures on the part of the police or on the part of the firefighters or on the part of the commanders,” the appeal stated.

“Therefore it is difficult to comprehend the decision of the minister and the commissioner to hurry and establish facts even before the causes and circumstances of the catastrophe have been fully investigated,” the appeal also stated.

The Public Security Ministry responded, saying, ‘Clause 6 of the Medals Law of the Police and Prison Services determines that only the Police Commissioner is allowed to grant the Medal of Distinction for a courageous act deserving of recognition, as opposed to a Medal of Courage, which is under the jurisdiction of the Public Security Minister.”

“Therefore, in this case, since we are talking about a Medal of Distinction, the matter is solely up to prerogative and the responsibility of the Police Commissioner,” said the ministry statement.

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