AN ETHIOPIAN PROTESTER shouts at a policeman during a demonstration in Tel Aviv against what protesters say is police racism and brutality..
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
The state prosecutor and the police are investigating and prosecuting Ethiopians in higher numbers than the rest of the population – with Ethiopian teens being indicted four times as often.
Deputy attorney-general for Criminal Affairs Shlomo (Mumi) Lemberger made the point in a letter he sent on Sunday to the national head of investigations for the police and to district prosecution heads nationwide.
His letter comes only weeks after a Justice Ministry anti-racism report headlined by director-general Emi Palmor and former Supreme Court deputy-president Elyakim Rubinstein highlighted the issue based on official 2015 statistics.
The goal of Lemberger’s letter is to explain and enforce new regulations his office has sent out regarding this issue.
According to Lemberger’s new directives to police and prosecutors, when they review cases involving Ethiopians or other minorities, they must now spend extra time carefully checking to see if the police involved abused the suspects’ rights in any way or discriminated against them. If they see any such indications, they must immediately report them to their superiors, who are supposed to enforce the new directives which were put together in coordination with the new Justice Ministry authority for combating racism.
Once every three months, each district must also send a global report on the issue to the deputy director-general’s office as part of his overall supervision of the issue.
Lemberger wrote that this initiative comes after “hearing many testimonies about discriminatory enforcement, excessive use of force and improper conduct by criminal law enforcement officials against ethnic Ethiopians.”
Besides the number of indictments against Ethiopian minors, noted Lemberger, even the number of indictments against Ethiopian adults was also double the rate of adults in the general population.
Examples of cases that officials should investigate to determine whether there was discrimination against minorities include those where the reason an officer approached or probed a member of a minority group did not appear to be legitimate, and where officers’ interactions with a minority group seemed to relate to their minority status.
Attorney Avka (Kobi) Zana, the head of the new authority combating racism, responded to Lemberger’s directives saying that he “praised the important directive... which implements some of the recommendations of the Palmor Commission... The national prosecution, with seriousness and determination, is leading efforts to combat” discrimination in the law enforcement context.