Police Conduct Against Issawiya’s Minors
On 25.3.2020, ACRI contacted the Attorney General requesting that he urgently examine police conduct in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, specifically toward residents who are minors, throughout the corona crisis. Testimonies that ACRI gathered, corroborated by video evidence, indicate that emergency regulations and Health Ministry directives that apply to everyone under Israel’s jurisdiction, including a prohibition on gathering, a maximum of two passengers per car, and maintenance of social distancing, are completely disregarded by Jerusalem District police officers active in the neighborhood.
At least six minors who reside in Issawiya have recently been arrested or detained with disregard for both public safety protocols and the minors’ risk of contracting the virus. In the appeal, ACRI Attorney Tal Hassin noted that the speedy release of some of these minors, even before they were brought to the police station, along with swift dismissal by the courts (partially due to the danger of incarceration these days, among other things), are clear indications that such vigorous hasty police activity was unwarranted to begin with, which is typical of police conduct in the area.
Take, for example, the two minors who were arrested in the center of Issawiya on suspicion that they had tried to start a motorcycle. They were both placed in a police vehicle with four officers and driven out to the entrance of the neighborhood. Only once they arrived there, following close physical contact with the officers, did the police ask them about their actions. They were both let go upon being told that they must appear for questioning at the police station the next day. However, upon arriving for the interrogation, they were told that there was no need, and were sent on their way. In another instance, a 13-year-old was arrested. In footage documenting him being led through the streets, two police officers are clearly seen walking alongside him holding him from both sides, while additional officers walk behind them.
In our appeal, we noted that the police are continuing their collective daily harassment of the neighborhood’s residents, approximately 20,000 people, as if they are not facing an ongoing pandemic with the risk of transmission floating in the air. Many families are collapsing under financial pressures and loss of livelihood, while almost everyone is overwhelmed with anxiety and uncertainty. Even in this situation, big groups of police officers continue to enter the neighborhood day after day, deliberately instigating friction and erecting arbitrary checkpoints to detain residents, all while risking everyone’s lives.