Adalah and the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) Submit Complaints and Demand Indictments against Israeli Police who used Excessive Force against Arab Citizens at the "March of Return” at Safouriya

Today, 25 September 2008, Adalah and the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) submitted a comprehensive file of complaints to the Ministry of Justice’s Police Investigations Department ("Mahash") documenting the excessive use of force by police against participants in the “March of Return” which took place at the uprooted Palestinian village of Safouriya in the north of Israel on 8 May 2008.

Adalah and the HRA demanded that the director of Mahash order a prompt and impartial criminal investigation into the events, and that those police officers found responsible for the use of extreme and unjustified violence against marchers, photographers and journalists, as well as for blatant violations of the rights of detainees during interrogation and detention be indicted. These violations included physical and psychological abuse, and making arrests without seeking necessary warrants.

The complaints were submitted on behalf of the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Israel (ADRID), the organizer of the March of Return, and on behalf of a large number of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who were injured by the police.

The complaints filed draw on 22 eyewitness testimonies, videos and photos taken during the events and on the proceedings of the detention hearings. It also includes a detailed description of the police’s unjustified use of violence including their fists, clubs, tear gas and sound and smoke bombs against participants in the march. Further, it explains that the police also acted violently against journalists and photographers, in an attempt to prevent the recording of the events, and against detainees, who were subsequently released without charge. The police violence against the detainees included punches and kicks, choking, making threats to open fire, spraying gas at short distances into a person’s eye, painful shackling, forcing detainees to kneel in painful and humiliating positions for long periods of time, making racist insults, and making threats of rape.

Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn, the main lawyer working on the case, argued that the violence used by the police demonstrates once more that, eight years after the October 2000 killings and five years after the Or Commission report and recommendations, the police have not drawn the appropriate lessons and continue to treat Palestinian citizens of Israel as if they are the enemy.

The police violence began at the end of the "March of Return”, which takes place annually on the same day that Israel celebrates its “Independence Day”. The march marks the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba and seeks recognition of the right of refugees to return to their homes. It takes place at a different uprooted village each year. In 2008 it was held at Safouriya near Nazareth with a police license, and approximately 15,000 people participated in it. At the end of the event, while the demonstrators were returning to their cars, verbal confrontations broke out between them and right-wing Jewish Israeli activists whom the police had allowed to hold a demonstration on the main road close to the endpoint of the march. Police present at the location did not take any action to prevent the right-wing activists from provoking the marchers but instead resorted to extreme violence against the Arab demonstrators.

Link to the Complaint