Katz-Cohen v Attorney-General

CourtSupreme Court (Israel)
Date02 September 1949
Docket NumberCase No. 26
Israel, Supreme Court (sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeals).

(President: Smoira, C.J.; Rabbi Assaf and Cheshin, JJ.)

Case No. 26

State Succession — Continuity of Laws — Continuity of Jurisdiction — Crimes Committed before the Change of Sovereignty — Termination of Mandate for Palestine and Establishment of State of Israel — Competence of the Israel Courts to Try and Punish Offenders.

The facts.—On April 21, 1948, the appellant killed his wife in his fiat in Tel-Aviv. At midnight of May 14/15, 1948, the Mandate for Palestine terminated and the State of Israel proclaimed its independence. By section 11 of the Law and Administration Ordinance passed on May 21, 1948, it was enacted that the law which was in force in Palestine on May 14, 1948, shall remain in force, so far as it is not repugnant to that Ordinance or to the other laws which may be enacted by or on behalf of the Provisional Council of State, and subject to such modifications as may result from the establishment of the State and its authorities. Section 14 of the Ordinance provided for the devolution of powers from the various British authorities to those of the new State; section 17 laid down that so long as no new law concerning the law courts has been enacted, the law courts existing in the territory of the State shall continue to function within the scope of the powers conferred upon them by law. On September 23, 1948, the District Court of Tel-Aviv accordingly tried and convicted the appellant on a charge of manslaughter contrary to section 212 of the Criminal Code Ordinance, 1936, and sentenced him to 15 years' imprisonment. The appeal to the Supreme Court was based upon a number of grounds, including the argument that the Tel-Aviv District Court was entirely without competence to try this case, since the State of Israel was not competent to deal with crimes committed before it came into existence.

Held: that the appeal must be dismissed and the conviction and sentence sustained. After a change of sovereignty the new authorities are entitled to bring to trial criminal acts committed in their territory before the change of sovereignty; there is no principle of international law denying continuity of law and continuity of the power to punish in these circumstances. The Court said, per Smoira, C.J. (Assaf and Cheshin, JJ., concurring):

“I would indeed be surprised if a man accused of murder or manslaughter committed in Tel-Aviv on April 21, 1948, should...

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