Harassment of Demonstrators at Climate Protest
On November 28, 2021, climate activists held a demonstration at the entrance to the Ministry of Finance, in protest of its refusal to allocate the resources necessary to contend with the consequences of the climate crisis. The demonstration took place two days after the state comptroller issued a scathing report on the state’s failures to prepare for climate change. Even before the protest commenced, police detained four civilians who were on their way to the site, conducting searches of their vehicles and persons, and confiscating equipment in their possession. The detained activists were held at the police station for several hours, for "intent to disrupt public order" and on suspicion of disturbing a police officer in assuming his role. The activists were ultimately released under restrictive conditions.
On January 18, 2022, we appealed to the Police Commissioner, requesting that he investigate the incident. Atty. Reut Shaer, Unit Director of the Public Hotline, and Sivan Tahel, Field Worker and Researcher, claimed that police conduct was fraught with grave and unacceptable failings, and violated their rights to freedom of protest, freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary detention, and dignity. First, there was no reasonable suspicion to justify the detainment of the activists demonstrating; the execution of searches on their devices and vehicles; and summoning them for questioning at the police station. Second, disproportionate restrictions were imposed on them as preconditions for their release, which severely violated their rights to freedom of protest, expression, and organization. Third, the police refused their request to obtain written documentation of their investigation, the conditions of their release, and the list of equipment confiscated from them.
We thus requested that the Commissioner interrogate police forces’ conduct throughout the incident and take disciplinary action with respect to the findings of the investigation. We further requested that the Jerusalem Police be instructed to permit civil protest in front of government institutions as required by law, and act to maintain order in accordance with their authority and the restrictions put forth regarding the matter, both in statutory and case law.