I wanted to update you on an unusual court hearing last week at Israel’s High Court of Justice: in a HaMoked petition, the Court instructed the Police Investigation Unit (PIU) to reopen a complaint of police brutality, submitted by a minor from East Jerusalem. The judges were extremely critical of the PIU’s conduct.
In November 2018, 17-year-old Amir was arrested from his home in Silwan, East Jerusalem. At 03:00 AM police arrived at his house without an arrest warrant and took him, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the Jerusalem Police Station for interrogation. Amir waited for questioning for five hours, during which he experienced extensive violence from police officers at the station. A number of officers kicked him, his head was slammed against the wall and floor, and he was threatened with the use of electric shocks due to his refusal to unlock his cellphone.
Amir was interrogated without his parents present, and was released from custody later that day without being charged with any crime. His father immediately took him to the emergency room, where his injuries were documented by medical staff.
Shortly after the event, HaMoked submitted a complaint to the PIU on Amir’s behalf, and demanded that the officers who beat him be brought to justice. Our complaint was rejected on the grounds that “the circumstances of the matter do not justify a criminal investigation”. HaMoked’s lawyer examined the investigation materials and found that no effort was made to identify the officers who accompanied Amir to his interrogation, and that the visual recording of the event was extremely partial (only 20 minutes of the many hours Amir spent at the police station were filmed). We therefore submitted an appeal to the State Attorney’s office regarding the decision to close the file, but this too was rejected.
Our petition to the High Court demanded that Amir’s complaint be re-opened; that a reasonable timeline be set for reviewing complaints of abuse by minors; and that such complaints be properly and efficiently investigated.
And indeed, at last week’s hearing it was apparent that the Court agrees there is a problem in this area. Justice Neal Hendel was extremely critical of the PIU’s handling of the case:
“You are the investigating body, it’s very sensitive when someone submits a complaint against a police officer, if there’s a complaint the expectation is that you’ll investigate it… Someone comes to you and it’s a minor with signs [of violence] I don’t understand why it’s not possible to investigate this?”
The court compelled the PIU to review the complaint, and to try to identify all the officers who were present at the event. The State must report back on these efforts within 45 days.
Most Palestinians who experience violence at the hands of the Israeli security forces don’t even bother to complain, due both to fear of repercussions, and to a lack of faith in the Israeli criminal justice system. Amir and his family know that they still face an uphill battle until the officers who injured him are held accountable. We will continue to represent Amir in an effort to achieve justice in his case, and in order to prevent such events from recurring in future.
Executive Director of HaMoked