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State won’t prosecute officers filmed beating Palestinians

Liel Kyzer | Ha’aretz

21 October 2009

Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan rejected an appeal against the decision not to investigate Border Police officers who documented themselves abusing Palestinians.

The appeal was filed by the Yesh Din human rights group.

Senior deputy to the state prosecutor Nechama Zusman wrote last week on Nitzan’s behalf that “the beating in the case was extremely slight and did not cause any actual damage. Therefore, the deputy state prosecutor did not think it was appropriate to intervene in the decision of the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers to transfer the case to the care of the Israel Police disciplinary department, along with a recommendation to discipline the officers in question.”

Yesh Din issued a sharp response on Tuesday. The organization’s legal adviser, Michael Sfard, wrote to Zusman that, “Your position demonstrates unprecedented tolerance of abuse of people in custody by a person of authority, through the use of violence and humiliation.”

“The question of damage suffered is completely irrelevant, as criminal law prohibits assault and without qualifying it by the gravity of the damage caused,” the letter continued. “The argument that beating a prisoner is not a criminal act is even worse than the beating itself, and amounts to a dangerous move by the prosecution.”

The organization called upon the prosecution to review its decision to close the criminal case. Sfard asked for disciplinary proceedings to be stalled until a final decision is made, and made clear that Yesh Din is considering further legal measures if the original decision is upheld.

The video clips in which the officers documented themselves beating and humiliating Palestinians in East Jerusalem were revealed over a year ago, and appear to have been filmed in July 2007 and August 2008.

One clip shows an armed Border Police officer hitting a Palestinian detainee on the back of the head. Another shows a different officer forcing a Palestinian youth to salute.

Yesh Din, which made the clips public, said they were found in a cell phone apparently lost by one of the officers.

When the footage became public, Yesh Din approached the investigations department with a request to examine the events in an open criminal proceeding against those involved.

After looking into the matter, the department decided not to press criminal charges and to transfer the case to the police disciplinary unit.