HaMoked to the Ministry of Interior: Do not coerce individuals seeking services in the East Jerusalem office into replacing their ID cards for biometric cards המוקד להגנת הפרט
15.09.2013
HaMoked to the Ministry of Interior: Do not coerce individuals seeking services in the East Jerusalem office into replacing their ID cards for biometric cards
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July 2013 saw the launching of the preliminary testing phase of the biometric database. During this phase, the Ministry of Interior offers smart, biometric cards to individuals who arrive at its offices in order to renew a passport or ID card. The biometric cards have an electronic chip that contains identifying information, a photograph and a fingerprint. The law that regulates the institution of the biometric database, Inclusion of Biometric Identification Means and Biometric Identification Data in Identification Papers and Databases Law 5770-2009, stipulates that during the testing phase, the Ministry of Interior will be unable to take biometrics for the purpose of issuing smart ID cards to individuals seeking its services without their express written consent. The law also stipulates that no sanctions will be taken against individuals who refuse to have their ID card replaced with the new biometric card.

Despite this, HaMoked has received reports that the right to refuse to take part in the biometric testing phase is not made sufficiently clear to residents of East Jerusalem who receive services from the Ministry of Interior Wadi al-Joz office. In some cases, coercion is used. For example, one person who arrived at the office to have his ID card renewed was told by the clerk that the office could no longer issue new ID cards that are not biometric.

On September 11, 2013, HaMoked wrote to the Ministry of Interior, demanding it instructs its employees at the Wadi al-Joz office to desist from this unacceptable practice. HaMoked also demanded that the ministry produce and display a written clarification, in Arabic, informing the public receiving services at the Wadi al-Joz office of the fact that they are not obliged to switch to the biometric ID card. HaMoked emphasized that the Ministry of Interior Wadi al-Joz office serves members of a disempowered population who fear that any refusal to cooperate with the authorities would put their status at risk. Therefore, staff at this location have an enhanced duty to exercise caution, fairness and transparency with respect to the replacement of ID cards, and to follow the letter of the law.
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