Israeli Supreme Court allows police to keep open-fire regulations concealed from public scrutiny

Supreme Court overturns lower court decision ordering police to publish regulations, thus hindering efforts to bring officers to justice for violations.

The Israeli Supreme Court issued on 28 September 2017 its June ruling in favor of an appeal filed by the Israeli police to impose a publication ban on sensitive parts of the force’s open-fire regulations governing officers’ use of fatal gunfire.


In late 2015, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Lod District Court seeking to compel the police to make public sensitive sections of its newly-issued open-fire regulations. The court ruled partially in favor of Adalah’s petition and the Israeli police subsequently appealed against that ruling.


The police had earlier refused to accede to a request made by Adalah to make the new regulations available to the public. Amongst the sensitive sections of the new police regulations kept under wraps are: officers’ directives for confronting demonstrations in East Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev) regions; directives for opening fire on minors; and directives regarding use of the Ruger sniper rifle for crowd dispersal purposes.


However, about two weeks before the court hearing on Adalah’s petition, Israeli police revealed significant portions of its new open-fire regulations.


According to the new police regulations, “An officer is permitted to open fire [with live ammunition] directly at an individual who clearly appears to be throwing or is about to throw a firebomb, or who is shooting or is about to shoot fireworks, in order to prevent endangerment.” “Stone-throwing using a slingshot” is also specified as an example of the sort of action that would justify the fatal use of live ammunition.


However, the police censored certain other sections of the regulations, those dealing with the use of live fire against: “1) suicide bombers; 2) a fleeing vehicle in which a hostage is being held; and also 3) directives regarding use of the Ruger rifle.”


In June 2017, in the wake of the police appeal, the Supreme Court decided to preserve the classified status of these sections of the regulations, and also placed a publication ban on its own decision. At the request of Adalah, the Supreme Court has now released its June decision.


Adalah Attorney Mohammad Bassam, who filed the petition seeking the publication of the open-fire regulations, stated in response:


“The [Lod] District Court emphasized in its decision that revealing the regulations would increase officers’ caution and adherence [to the regulations] prior to opening fire. The Supreme Court, however, has assumed an opposing position that is intended to shield police directives from public criticism, thus hindering efforts to bring officers to justice for violations of the regulations.


“In a reality in which Israeli police policy promotes a light trigger finger – and in which officers shoot to kill in contravention of regulations – these regulations must be visible and clear in order to limit the use of deadly gunfire.”


Case Citation: Administrative Petition 10030/16, Israel Police v. Adalah


CLICK HERE to read the Supreme Court ruling [Hebrew]