Problematic Police Handling of Demonstrators
On 29.6.2020, the Interior Affairs Committee will hold a discussion on the topic “Police Work Protocols During Demonstrations.” The issue has come up in the media in recent days due to the arrests of leaders of the anti-corruption demonstrations taking place in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, among them Amir Haskel. This instance, however, is only one example following years of problematic police behavior towards demonstrators.
Prior to the discussion, ACRI’s Attorney Anne Suciu addressed the committee and pointed out several widespread, problematic phenomena in police behavior during demonstrations, which we have identified throughout our efforts to accompany and support demonstrators:
Unnecessary arrests: A large portion of the arrests we have seen during demonstrations are not based on legal grounds. Often, it is the demonstration’s “leaders” who are arrested, in hopes that such an act would subside other demonstrators and serve as a sort of punishment. Notably, those arrested are not violent nor are they endangering public safety. The excessive use of arrests is apparent in the fact that a significant number of them do not lead to indictments.
Detention conditions: Violations of rights we have encountered: needless handcuffing of detainees, both on site and in the police station while awaiting investigation; female detainees asking to use the restroom in the police station and forced to leave the bathroom door open; investigation of minors before the arrival of their parents, and often not by a special investigator for minors; illegal strip-searching detainees brought to the police station.
Conditions of release: In the hundreds of cases we have seen, demonstrators released from detention in the police station are faced with unreasonable and unfounded conditions. Mostly, the conditions of release include the maximum option allowed by law - suspension of 15 days. The area of exclusion is usually maximal as well - an entire city in which those under scrutiny cannot enter. Often, demonstrators are suspended from nearing specific areas of demonstrations, and at times from areas where demonstrations are foreseen to happen. Our position is that in most of the cases, these conditions of release are an abuse of authority, with no grounds for suspending the detainees. Seemingly, the goal of these conditions is to prevent participation in future demonstrations, and to “teach a lesson.” This is most clear in the cases where demonstrators refused to sign the draconian conditions and instead remained in custody until brought to a hearing in front of a judge, where the courts then criticized both the behavior of the police and the conditions of release.