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ACRI Appeals Against Unlawful Detentions of Arab Citizens

Photo: Yossi Zamir, Shatil-Stock

In recent weeks, the Israeli police have arrested close to 2,000 people, the vast majority (90%) of whom are Arab residents and citizens of Israel. Furthermore, about 20% of the detainees are minors. A significant number of the arrests were made as part of Operation Law and Order, which the police announced on May 23, 2021 at the end of a wave of protests throughout the country. According to data presented by the police on May 27, 302 people have been arrested so far in the operation—13 of them Jewish Israelis and the rest Arab citizens or residents. Of the total detained, 52 detainees were minors. On the same day, the police announced the extension of the arrest operation for another week.

In an appeal we sent today (30.5.2021) to the Attorney General, Attorney Gadeer Nikola, Director of the Arab Minority Rights Unit, wrote that the purpose of the police policy is to collectively deter and punish Arab society. The policy is being carried out in blatant violation of constitutional rights, including the right to liberty, and is a serious abuse of authority and deviation from the provisions of the law.

The appeal stated that the target of the operation's intimidation and deterrence was expressed in the way in which the arrests were conducted: many police forces and police vehicles demonstratively and forcefully entered homes in Arab localities and neighborhoods, often in the wee hours of the night, to arrest young men and women, including minors. The police did not try to summon for questioning at first, but rather sought to quickly arrest as many as possible, in accordance with the quantitative target of arrests it had set for itself in advance. Most of the detainees were young Arabs suspected of committing offenses in recent weeks in the areas of "public disorder," "assaulting police officers" and "throwing stones," in addition to a significant number of detainees who are journalists and political activists. The vast majority of the detainees as part of Operation Law and Order were released at the end of the investigation, demonstrating that there was no justification for detention in the first place.

Atty. Nicola emphasized in her application that the Detention Law sets out clear grounds for a person's detention. There must be a well-founded fear of either danger to the police or public, or a well-founded suspicion that the suspect will not appear for questioning. The law does not allow the use of detentions for purposes such as "closing accounts," "deterrence and intimidation," or "restoring governance."

We therefore asked the Attorney General to order an end to the wave of arrests, to order an examination of the arrest policy in recent weeks, to refine the procedures regarding arrests, and to instruct the Commissioner and the commanding officer in the police regarding their duties and the limits of their authority in this field.

ACRI’s appeal to the Attorney General, 30.5.2021

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