Stop Police Use of Chokeholds During Arrests

sign says "I can't breathe"
Demonstration in protest of the death of George Floyd by US police. © John Gomez | Dreamstime.com

A chokehold is a method used to restrain and gain control of suspects and detainees, through which pressure is placed on a person's neck in various means. In recent years, many countries around the world have changed legislation, protocols, and guidelines, such that the possibility for police officers to use chokeholds has been banned or severely restricted, recognizing that various chokehold grips are equivalent to lethal force. In Israel, on the other hand, police officers continue to use this measure when conducting routine arrests. Chokeholds cause difficulty in breathing and are even liable to cause loss of consciousness. In many cases, the chokehold actually generates reactionary panic and resistance in the detainee, in an attempt to stop the sense of suffocation, such that its use produces the opposite result. Beyond the physical risk inherent in using this method, it is also severely degrading, violates human dignity, and has lasting psychological consequences.

On November 4, 2021, we appealed to the Minister of Public Security and the Commissioner of the Israel Police, along with fellow organizations, to stop police use of chokeholds as a means of conducting arrests, gaining control, or restraining. In the appeal, ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu provided documentation of 17 cases in which this measure was used over the past two years. The documentation indicates that use of chokeholds is not solely reserved for extreme cases in which it’s necessary to gain control over a suspect who has committed a grave offense that endangers their environment or the police, but rather as a routine means of restricting the movement of detainees for minor offenses, dispersing protesters, or transporting a suspect to a police car.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, the Association of Ethiopian Jews, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Clinical Legal Education Center, signed onto the appeal.