Israeli police acting above the law, taking brutal measures to suppress legitimate protest of Palestinian citizens of Israel
Over the last week, during the extremely violent events taking place throughout Israel, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli police, backed by the courts, have been trying to prevent the legitimate protest of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel against the government's policies by means of brutal and illegal acts. The primary purpose of these acts is to scare and oppress citizens and threaten them into silencing their dissent. Adalah, together with Mezan (Nazareth), the Human Rights Defenders Fund and numerous volunteer lawyers, have been representing close to 100 detainees in Israeli courts around the country, and gathering testimonies from those individuals whose rights have been violated by the police.
Brutal and repressive acts undertaken by the Israeli police against Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel include the arbitrary arrests of minors; "preventive arrests" of activists/protest organizers to thwart demonstrations; arrests of activists' family members to pressure them; and severe physical violence against protestors, and in particular, Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Arrests of juveniles (minors) and serious violations of their rights: Based on Adalah's legal representations, Adalah has found that the Israeli police are failing to follow the special procedures applicable to the arrest of minors when arresting Palestinian youth. In recent days, the police have failed to afford minors the right to consult with an attorney, have questioned them without the presence of their parents, interrogated them late at night, and compelled them to sign statements that they have not understood. The state has argued in court against the release of these minors, claiming that due to the ideological background of the protests, and in light of the security situation in general, the authorities should not give weight to a minor's lack of a criminal record in considering his/her release from detention. Like other measures taken by the police, these state practices are also illegal.
“There is no crime in Israeli law of ‘attempting to organize an unlawful gathering’. Thus, with these arrests, the Israeli police are acting above the law, according to their own unauthorized discretion.”
"Preventive arrests": Preventive arrests are another illegal police practice that has been used against dozens of Palestinian citizen activists. The police issued arrest warrants on the grounds of suspicion of "organizing an illegal gathering with the intent to riot". Seven activists have been arrested on this fictitious charge, some also with their parents. These arrests have no legal basis. There is no crime in Israeli law of "attempting to organize an unlawful gathering". Thus, with these arrests, the Israeli police are acting above the law, according to their own unauthorized discretion.
Arrests of family members, false arrests: The police have arrested the parents of political activists, who they claim are suspected of serious crimes including incitement to terrorism. In practice, some of these activists are not questioned at all; some have reported to Adalah that upon arrival at the police stations, they are told that they are not suspected at all; while others were held only for a short time and sent home. Therefore, it is clear that the arrests of the activists' parents were aimed at compelling their children not to organize or participate in demonstrations, and that before signing these arrest warrants, the courts did not examine the cases or the police materials justifying the parents' detention. Further, three bus drivers who drove activists to a demonstration site were arrested and charged with unlawful gathering, before any such event or demonstration took place. The drivers were then released to house arrest until the following day.
“...the bodies of two minors bore marks of violence. One police representative claimed that he ‘used reasonable force.’”
Police violence against demonstrators: Some protestors were beaten by the police and hospitalized. In one case, a minor's leg was broken and he underwent surgery. According to the police, his leg was broken "during his flight from the police and as they tried to take control of him". Another activist was hospitalized with internal bleeding and two broken ribs, following a beating by the police. In addition, in the cases represented by Adalah, the bodies of two other minors bore marks of violence. One police representative claimed that he "used reasonable force."
Total number of Palestinian citizens of Israel detained in different localities: Approximately 100 activists have been arrested over the last week, predominantly from Nazareth, Haifa, Tamra, Jaffa, Taybeh, Umm al-Fahem and Arrabe. Most police requests to extend the detention of arrested demonstrators have been approved by the courts, without any critique of the police behavior. Throughout the various hearings, the judges expressed understanding with the police and excused their acts of gross violations of detainees' rights, especially minors. The courts have afforded extensions of detention unjustifiably, while repressing basic freedom of expression rights of citizens, and have granted long periods of detention requested by the police without setting short court status dates that would allow for the further judicial review of developments in investigations.