HaMoked and PCATI demand the Israeli military and the Border Police eradicate the demeaning phenomenon of detainees being photographed without their consent by members of the security forces for their amusement
On April 21, 2021, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and HaMoked wrote to the Military Advocate General and to the Commander of the Border Police to alert them about the recurrent and prohibited phenomenon whereby Palestinian detainees are being photographed for the amusement of members of the arresting force. From affidavits given to the organizations, it appears that time and again, soldiers and Border Police officers, using their private mobile phones, take pictures of detainees, including minors, who are sometimes blindfolded and handcuffs, without their permission and for no official purpose. Often this forms part of an ordeal of mental and physical abuse detainees suffer at the hands of the arresting force.
In the letter, the organizations described several such incidents, including that of a 17-year-old detainee with a pre-existing leg injury, whose bandage was removed before he was photographed to reveal his wound to the camera. In another incident, a 21-year-old woman was photographed while handcuffed by a female member of the security forces, who shouted at her to look at the camera while another member of the security forces laughed. Later, the young detainee was woken by the sound of laughing soldiers – male and female – and realized she had fallen asleep on a chair in a military base, while waiting to be taken to the detention facility. She then noticed that a soldier sitting next to her was sending her photograph via WhatsApp. Two additional cases appear in HaMoked’s October 2020 report, “Under Cover of Darkness: Night Arrests of Palestinian Minors by Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank
The organizations noted that some 15 years ago, HaMoked alerted
the military about this phenomenon, but clearly not enough had been done since then to stop such abuse. Furthermore, now more than ever, there is the added risk that such photographs would be circulated online, exacerbating the harm to the people photographed against their will. The organizations explained that the phenomenon constituted a severe violation of the basic rights of detainees, whose dignity was thereby being trampled and their privacy shamelessly infringed upon. They clarified that a person’s detention does not justify humiliating them or violating their privacy. Furthermore, in the case of soldiers, such actions were a flagrant breach of authority and even amounted to abuse as established in the Military Justice Law (MJL), 4715-1955. In the case of Border Police officers, this constituted a severe criminal offense of “abuse of authority” as well as “injury to a helpless person” as established in the Israeli Penal Law. It was further stated that such conduct also constituted a violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, whereby protected people and detainees are to be treated with respect and humanity.
The organizations demanded that immediate action be taken to eradicate this phenomenon. This should include clear oral and written instructions regarding the complete prohibition on unnecessary photographing detainees, and the launching of a review into any suspicion that detainees have been photographed, culminating in suitable criminal or disciplinary sanctions.