Police Violence against Participants at the Right of Return March in Safouriya in the North of Israel held to Commemorate the Sixtieth Year of the Nakba

Adalah and the Arab Association for Human Rights Collecting Eyewitness Testimonies to Document Police Violence and File Complaints


Ten Arab Citizens of Israel Detained by Police and later Released after Adalah’s Legal Interventions at Detention Hearings and on Appeal

On 8 May 2008, the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced in Israel (ADRID) organized the annual March for the Right of Return on the lands of the destroyed Arab village of Safouriya in the north of Israel. Around 15,000 people participated in the march, including women, men, children and the elderly. As in previous years, the March for the Right of Return took place in an organized manner and according to the conditions of the permit that was granted to the organizers by the police. Nevertheless, after the organizers responded to the police request and moved the path of the march further away from the main road, the police allowed right-wing demonstrators to hold a counter-protest alongside the road.

After the march ended and as the participants were walking to their cars on the side of the Shafa’amr-Nazareth road, the right-wing demonstrators shouted insults against the marchers, who shouted back at them in return. When they started to walk away and head back to their cars, as they were asked to by Arab Members of Knesset and political activists, they were attacked violently by special police forces that pushed them to the side of the road. The police then began to fire tear gas and sound grenades in the direction of the demonstrators, a few of whom responded by throwing stones in the direction of the police. The police also assaulted photographers who attempted to document the brutal police violence, and arrested and detained some of them.

Securing the Release of Detainees
Four individuals who were detained by the police during the March for the Right of Return were released the next day, 9 May 2008, by the Nazareth Magistrates’ Court. The police had accused the detainees of threatening public safety, attacking police officers with weapons, and causing damage to cars. Judge Ihsan Kin’an issued an order to release the detainees after accepting the arguments of the defense team, composed of Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn, and other attorneys, as well as viewing a video recording of the events. The defense presented an extraordinary motion to allow it to present a video to the judge only, arguing that the prosecution should be excluded from viewing it in order to protect the detainees’ constitutional rights to freedom and against self-incrimination. The motion was granted and the judge viewed the video in the presence of the defense only. The video documented police assaulting one of the detainees as he was sitting on the ground, surrounded by police officers, and pursuing an individual who photographed police violence. After viewing the videotape the judge decided that it proved the inaccuracy of the police’s claims regarding the circumstances in which the arrest took place.

On 14 May 2008, the police released another individual who had been arrested on 13 May, and whose detention had been extended for five days by the Nazareth Magistrates’ Court. The release took place immediately before the appeal against the extension order was heard. On the same day, the police detained a further individual, who was invited for questioning at the Nazareth police station, but the person was released on the same day.

On 15 May 2008, four young men who had been detained a week before on 8 May were released after their detention had been extended three times. The police agreed to the release of the four detainees one day prior to date set by the court for hearing the appeal filed to the Nazareth District Court by Attorney Kohn, together with Attorney WakimWakim from ADRID and Attorney Faheem Daoud from the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) on behalf of two of the detainees. The release also took place a day prior to the date set for the police for filing any indictments against the other detainees.

On 18 May the police released two more detainees who had been arrested that morning without an arrest warrant, after Attorney Kohn warned police that the arrest was illegal and informed them of her intention to resort to the court in case they were not released immediately.

Since the events that took place earlier this month, a joint team of Adalah and the HRA has been collecting testimonies from eyewitnesses in preparation for taking legal steps against police commanders and officers who ordered the attack on the participants in the march.

From the testimonies collected to date it is clear that the police exceeded its authority by engaging in unjustifiably violent conduct and by attempting to prevent the documentation of police violence and attacking photographers. It also appears from the testimonies that the detainees’ rights were also violated as the police made illegal arrests, prevented detainees from receiving medical care, and held in them in inhumane conditions in the detention facilities for the purpose of exerting additional pressure upon them.