The Fight against Police Brutality

In November, PCATI launched a project targeting police brutality. Our data suggests that lately the police have turned from practicing legally-sanctioned enforcement, to applying excessive force and seeing itself as above the law. State violence against citizens can – and often does - amount to torture (as defined in international law).
Though this subject is at the crux of human and civil rights, and despite the growing public prominence of parallel struggles elsewhere in the world, in Israel there have been no organized projects offering legal representations to victims of police violence as such (the exceptions have been activists engaged in a particular struggle, a certain social or ethnic group, and Palestinians from the occupied territories).

This project was established through the support of the New Israel Fund and is part of a wider project concerned with freedom of expression and protest. PCATI will monitor police brutality in demonstrations in the context of protest, resistance, and oppression of freedom of speech, and in other instances in which citizens fall victim to police officers' arbitrary aggression.  
The member organizations in the network meet regularly to coordinate their work and cooperation. In addition to PCATI, network members include Adalah, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, Human Rights Defenders Fund, and ACRI. An important facet is provided by Tmura – The Israeli Anti-Discrimination Legal Center, which provides assistance in presenting Tort claims and civil suits.
Since the launch of the project, PCATI lawyer Noa Levi has encountered recurring instances of excessive force applied in the suppression of legitimate protest, the use of searches and shackling so to humiliate, inflict pain and harm civilians in custody, and of the police harassing and threatening complainants.
So far, ten complaints have been filed with the Police Investigation Unit in Israel's Ministry of Justice, and contacts have been established with dozens of complainants from various sectors. Two of the files have already resulted in a disciplinary trial.  PCATI is in the process of appealing the decision to resolve the case internally, rather than through a criminal investigation.
Among the cases Adv. Levi has handled since the launch of the project:

  • A 16 year-old youth of Ethiopian descent, hurt in a car crash, brutally strangled by a police-officer and handcuffed for 12 hours, while subject to threats of physical and sexual violence.
  • Yair, a member of the African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem community from Dimona, who was taken out of his car in a road block without any reason by Border Police officers, knocked to the ground and beaten severely, then charged with assault of a police-officer. Following PCATI's intervention, the case against him was closed and now his complaint is examined by the Police Investigation Unit in Israel's Ministry of Justice.   
  • A demonstrator from Kissufim in the south of Israel was attacked by a police-officer in a demonstration until she lost consciousness.
  • A demonstrator in Be'er Sheva was punched in the face while handcuffed on the way from a demonstration to the police station. Later on in the station, he was told to crawl on the ground if he wanted to get some water.
  • A young Palestinian attacked in Jerusalem by the Border Police and publicly humiliated, in an incident that was caught on camera.

As part of the project, PCATI lodged five complaints with the Police Investigation Unit regarding police brutality in demonstrations against the recently-mooted natural gas deal.
The project is garnering considerable public attention: two stories about cases PCATI handled were published earlier in the month on popular Israeli website Mako.
Police brutality hurts all sectors of society: Jews, Arabs, men, and women, religious and secular people. Help us in continuing our fight against police brutality. If you encountered police brutality, tell us. Share information about this project with people you know, or tell them about our newsletter so they can remain updated.  

How many complaints to the Police Public Complaints Unit in Israel were dismissed in 2014? Watch the video
Damages Claim on Behalf of a Torture Victim
A tort claim is currently discussed in the court, submitted by Adv. Itai Mack on behalf of Muhammad Rmeileh from Jenin. Rmeileh was placed in administrative detention four years ago, and was tortured by the warden in the detention facility, who broke his eye socket. The criminal case was dismissed. PCATI turned to the civil law procedure for several reasons: First, to obtain compensation for Rmeileh; second, as a means of obtaining redress against the perpetrators; and third, to establish a standard of identifying and documenting torture according to the Istanbul Protocol, a standard that would enable the submission of appropriate evidence in cases of torture.
Support The Fight against Police Brutality and Tourture!
Copyright © 2016 Public Committee against Torture in Israel, All rights reserved.
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