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  • ACRI

Ensuring the Right to Protest During Wartime

During this challenging period, many citizens are seeking to voice their concerns and protest. Some are demanding to hold protests against government failures in preventing the attacks and dealing with them, while others are protesting for the release of the captives and against the harm to civilians in Gaza. Evidence and documentation that reached us indicate that demonstrators participating in recent protests faced restrictions by the police, unprecedented violence by civilians, ignored by on-site officers, and even violent behavior by the police towards the demonstrators.

On 14.10.2023, we appealed to the Police Commissioner, requesting the assurance of protecting freedom of expression and the right to protest even during wartime, under the restrictions of emergency regulations. In the appeal, attorney Sivan Tahel wrote that particularly in this period, it's essential to ensure the protection of freedom of expression and the right to protest.

"These are very difficult days, and we are aware that the public is filled with anger, and the Israeli police are active in all areas, alongside significant losses in the organization," the appeal stated. "Nevertheless, the opportunity to conduct a public dialogue and protest is vital even during this time, and the police continue to rely on maintaining the law and public order, within which lies the defense of the citizens' right to demonstrate. Even during this difficult time, the Israeli Police are committed to protecting demonstrators from violence by the public against them, and the officers must perform their duties without allowing personal opinions or emotions to influence them."

Before receiving a response to the letter, the police announced that it imposes a strict ban on demonstrations related to political, diplomatic, or security issues during wartime and prohibited holding a protest near the Prime Minister's residence in Caesarea, calling for his removal. In an appeal to the Attorney General, attorney Dan Yakir, president of ACRI, wrote that this policy is fundamentally illegal and given without authority. Although the police subsequently issued an ambiguous notice allowing protests, we stood by our request to the Attorney General to clarify to the police their obligation to allow demonstrations even during this challenging time.

"We have never believed in the common expression that when the cannons roar, the muse is silent," the appeal stated. "It is effortless to assert that there is no valid authority for the approach that when the cannons boom, protests should quiet down. The police have no authority to prohibit demonstrations altogether or in political, diplomatic, or security issues specifically. Considering, the police must not take into account the protest's subject or its content - a demonstration for the release of captives, which is consensual, yes; a protest against the government policy or against military action in the Gaza Strip, no. Furthermore, it is the police's duty to protect the demonstrators from those who try to harm them."

ACRI's Appeal, October 14, 2023 (Hebrew)


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