HaMoked appeals to the Israel Police against the closing of 13 complaints regarding the March 2019 violent incident, in which Ketziot Prison wardens brutally beat and maltreated dozens of bound and defenseless prisoners, severely injuring some. The incident was recorded on prison security cameras
On May 12, 2021, HaMoked sent the National Prison Wardens Investigation Unit (NPWIU) of the Israel Police an appeal over the closing of complaint files regarding a violent incident which took place at Ketziot Prison on March 24, 2019, during which dozens of cuffed prisoners were beaten and abused by Wardens. The incident was preceded by a stabbing of a warden by a prisoner from another prison block. According to media reports, some 14 prisoners were injured in the incident, two of them severely, and several were airlifted to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) failed to uphold its duty and did not notify the families of those injured about their medical condition and whereabouts. Concerned families contacted HaMoked on the following day to assist them to trace their loved-ones and ascertain their condition. HaMoked contacted the IPS to demand the families be immediately provided with this basic information, as required under every applicable law. Later on, HaMoked also emphasized that the absence of response increased concerns that the families were being left without information as part of an attempted cover-up of improper conduct. Only on April 1, 2019, Ketziot Prison informed HaMoked that all hospitalized prisoners had already been returned to the prison, but nothing more was revealed. Moreover, despite the scale of the incident as regards the overall number of people involved, the number of injured prisoners and the severity of the injuries, the NPWIU did not initiate an investigation and did not collect testimonies from the injured prisoners.
During July-August 2019, HaMoked filed complaints to the NPWIU on behalf of 13 of those injured regarding the severe violence they had suffered at the hands of wardens who had beaten them while they were bound and lying on the floor. Later HaMoked also demanded that an external investigation committee be appointed to examine the broader systemic aspects of the incident. More than 15 months passed before the Southern District Attorney’s Office informed HaMoked on July 5, 2020, that 8 of the complaints had been closed on the grounds of “unknown offender”, and on November 29, 2020, that the five remaining files had also been closed on unspecified grounds.
HaMoked obtained the NPWIU investigation files, including security camera footage, which clearly showed that this was a brutal, gratuitous attack of defenseless prisoners and that the NPWIU had made no real effort to uncover the truth. In its appeal, HaMoked wrote: “There can be no dispute regarding the duty to conduct an unbiased, exhaustive and thorough criminal investigation of the complaints regarding suspicions of a severe violation of the absolute prohibition on the use of torture against a person and the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and humiliating acts against a person, as claimed in the complaints… The decision to close some of the files on the grounds that the perpetrators could not be identified, in the very least, raises the concern that the NPWIU investigation was improperly conducted”.
HaMoked argued that it was clear that the investigation was rife with “ingrained structural failures” which prevented the possibility of properly examining these kinds of complaints, as well as the possibility of evaluating in retrospect the conduct of the investigation itself. Among the failures cited was the fact that no attempt had been made to collect testimonies from the other prisoners present during the incident; and that none of the prisoners had been shown any of the available security camera footage which could have led to the identification of the assailants. Instead, the investigators were satisfied with just questioning the wardens, whose claims did not fit the basic fact that bound prisoners were the ones who were injured. Additionally, the investigation files contained no medical records concerning the severity of the injuries, and footage was missing for significant parts of the incident, even though both portable and fixed cameras were known to have been in use in the prison.
* On June 10, 2021, Ha’aretz newspaper published
some of the footage, which contain shocking and disturbing images.