Following a High Court order nisi in HaMoked’s petition: the Police Investigation Unit will reopen its investigation into a 2018 complaint of police brutality towards a Palestinian juvenile detainee המוקד להגנת הפרט
20.12.2021
Following a High Court order nisi in HaMoked’s petition: the Police Investigation Unit will reopen its investigation into a 2018 complaint of police brutality towards a Palestinian juvenile detainee
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At 4:00 A.M. on November 18, 2018, an hour after he was dragged from his bed by the Israel Police, 17-year-old East Jerusalemite Amir Abu Sbeih suffered severe police brutality at the Russian Compound detention center during the five-hour wait for the interrogation. Among other things, his head was bashed against the wall and on the floor and later, he was repeatedly kicked while he lay on the floor – all the while he remained blindfolded and cuffed hand and feet. The two men who conducted his interrogation failed to act on his complaint, despite his injured face and the fact that he told them about the beatings. They did not even bother to provide him with medical treatment. He was released later that afternoon, without any charges.

HaMoked filed a comprehensive complaint on his behalf, but the Police Investigation Unit (PIU) closed the file without providing any substantive reason. HaMoked’s appeal against this decision was similarly rejected by the Appeals Unit at the State Attorney’s Office. Therefore, on November 1, 2020, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to reverse rejection of the appeal and to compel the authorities to formulate a procedure of investigation into suspected incidents of police brutality against detainees, especially minors.

Following the Justices’ pointed questions during the hearing of April 26, 2021, the PIU performed two entirely rudimentary investigative actions in the case, following which, the State announced its decision that the case should remain closed. On October 14, 2021 – upon HaMoked’s request to complete the investigation – the HCJ issued an order nisi instructing the State to justify why it would not cancel the decision to reject the petitioner’s appeal against the closure of his complaint.

Thereupon, on November7, 2021, the state informed the Court that it had revised its decision, accepted the appeal and ordered PIU to conduct additional investigative steps “in order to exhaust the criminal investigation”. Therefore, the state claimed, the petition should be deleted.

Despite HaMoked’s objection, the HCJ deleted the petition on December 19, 2021. In the judgment, written by Deputy President Justice Neil Handel, the court ruled that “the Respondents should be left to exhaust the investigative steps”, and that later on, the petitioners could file a new petition regarding any future decision in the case, should they find it dissatisfactory.  

HaMoked’s demand for a new procedure was rejected due to a failure to exhaust remedies. However, the Court’s judgment commented at length on the PIU’s problematic conduct in general: “Clearly action must be taken to remove the violent weeds from the ranks of the Israel Police – and to ensure that the dragging out of a toothless ‘preliminary examination’ [of a complaint] does not afford immunity to the offenders”; The PIU bears “a double and triple obligation to conduct a rigorous and thorough examination of suspected criminal acts”, and ‘must take special care to conduct prompt and thorough investigations against uniformed officers suspected of abusing their authority”; “… the slow pace [of such investigations] can undermine the ability to reach the truth”.

The State was ordered to pay the petitioner’s costs in the sum of NIS 10,000.

HaMoked continues to accompany the young man on his search for justice and has already written to the PIU to inquire about recent steps in the renewed investigation.

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