New ACRI report issued for Jerusalem Day criticizes police

Excessive force is cited for Arab citizens' distrust of officers; report says police contributing to decline in personal safety of Arab Jerusalemites.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
June 1, 2011 02:49
2 minute read.
Jerusalem left-wing protest

Jerusalem left-wing protest_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel slammed the Jerusalem police in a blistering report released on Tuesday, in honor of Jerusalem Day, about police behavior in east Jerusalem toward Arab residents.

The organization accused the police of contributing to “a serious and steady decline” in the personal safety of Arab residents of east Jerusalem, and their distrust of the Jerusalem police.

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“Over the past year, the excessive use of riot-control measures in the heart of crowded residential areas has become all too commonplace,” the organization stated in the report, citing the alleged death of an asthmatic toddler in Issawiyya, who died after inhaling copious amounts of tear gas. The family refused to allow police to perform an autopsy on the child, so the official cause of death is unclear.

ACRI condemned the police’s policy of detaining minors, and noted that in 2010 alone, 1,200 minors were taken for questioning in connection with stone-throwing; while 759 were arrested for nationalist-motivated crimes. However, in only 226 cases (roughly 11%) were indictments filed, and the minors were held in detention until the end of legal proceedings.

Statistics such as these, ACRI wrote, contribute to east Jerusalem-Arab suspicions that “most of these arrests and interrogations are intended solely to intimidate the youth, extract information from them, and scare them from ever performing the acts of which they were suspected.”

ACRI also faulted the police for excessive use of tear gas in densely populated areas, creating extra checkpoints at the entrances to Arab neighborhoods, and selectively enforcing the law against Arab residents – and not Jewish residents.



Jerusalem Police Spokesman, Shmuel Ben Ruby, refused to respond to the report because the police had not yet received it from the organization and been given a chance to react to the accusations.

“When we receive the report, we will respond to it,” he said.

The organization noted that with the entrance of the new Jerusalem Police Chief, Nisso Shaham, in early May, the police have an opportunity to address these problems under a new leader.

“ACRI’s experience in east Jerusalem shows that when law enforcement officials have expressed genuine interest in changing the reality for the better – and when they have done so through dialogue and cooperation with residents – there have been dramatic changes on the ground for the benefit of all concerned,” the report stated.

However, the organization added, when the police chose the route of “alienation, exclusion, and refusal,” they have found “it has been impossible to bridge the rift between the two sides.”

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