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  • ACRI

Landmark Ruling: HCJ Limits Police Authority


On January 25, 2021, the High Court handed down a landmark decision on our petition; the Court has significantly reduced the range of cases in which a police officer can require a citizen to present an identity card. Moreover, in the case of detaining a civilian to request their ID, the Police were ordered to refrain from taking the opportunity to question the civilian or to check his or her criminal record, or other personal information, via the police computer terminal.

This is a long-awaited reform that will greatly impact the country’s vulnerable populations - mainly Arabs, Ethiopian-Israelis, Jews of Mizrahi descent - who have suffered for years by the current police policy of requiring ID without cause.

We have been demanding that the Israeli Police develop criteria for demanding ID of civilians for a long time. Alas, the High Court agrees and demands a reform, a welcome step toward eradicating racial profiling and discrimination.

Background on the petition:

On 18.8.2019, ACRI petitioned the High Court of Justice, along with the Association of Ethiopian Jews and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, via the Center for Clinical Legal Education at the Hebrew University, demanding that the court prohibit police from detaining people on the street for the purpose of presenting an ID card without suspicion that they committed a transgression. ACRI demanded the annulment of the "procedure for presenting IDs and the requirement to identify oneself before a police officer," in which the illegal practice is anchored.

The petition attacks the systematic and long-standing conduct of police officers who detain people on the street, solely because of their subjective impression that they appear to be "problematic," requiring them to present an ID card without any explanation, and checking the police database for information on them. We claim that a practice that marks someone suspect in this manner violates the right to dignity, the right to a good reputation, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of movement, and the right to equality.

This police practice, which has been proven to result from discrimination in the exercise of enforcement powers and racial profiling, is intensively applied to people who appear to be of Ethiopian, Arab, and Mizrahi origin. It generates a grave sense of exclusion, contempt and degradation, and has severe social consequences. Jewish women are hardly ever encountered, and residents of established communities with western appearances will also hardly ever face such experiences.

"Whenever it happened to me, I felt that it ruined the rest of my day," says “A”, a 22-year-old soldier of Mizrahi origin. "A feeling that I'm not equal to my peers, no matter how much I volunteer and do for society, there are still security figures who draw conclusions because of my appearance."

“Z,” from Ethiopia, says that this conduct by the police began when he was a child. "Police officers always approached us and demanded to know what we were doing and even conducted rough searches on us, knocking our hats off our heads. Every time it happened to me I felt very uncomfortable. It's very degrading and embarrassing. It's unclear to me how anyone can behave in such a way. How is judgment not exercised on the job? I'm most upset about the children, I'm used to this and feel like I can handle it as long as there's no violence, but a young boy who's 13, 15, what will he do?"

"Most of my friends look Mizrahi, dark-skinned. It happens and happened to almost all my friends and everyone I know," adds “R.” "Often it happens when you see one of us with some new or expensive possession. For example, if one of my friends has a black motorcycle helmet and it looks a bit pricey, then the police will always stop him and check him specifically."

ACRI attorney Anne Suciu: "The fact that any police officer can detain anyone and require them to identify themselves at his own discretion, grants general permission for arbitrary and discriminatory conduct by the police. We have seen such consequences in the field for years: discrimination and profiling toward minorities. The court must intervene and change the reality in which a person's skin tone is a factor that impacts the conduct he or she is afforded by the police."

HCJ 5471/19

Attorneys: Anne Suciu (ACRI), Vardit Dimri Madar and Nisreen Alian (The Clinical Legal Education Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

For further information (Hebrew)

#EqualityandAntiRacism #EthiopianJews #Mizrahim #ArabMinorityRights #Police #Profiling #LegalWork

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