Israel seeing ‘alarming’ human rights trends — report

Israel seeing ‘alarming’ human rights trends — report

Civil rights group decries use of administrative detention; MK Hanin Zoabi says 'resistance' only option for Palestinians

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

A Palestinian man is beaten and restrained by IDF soldiers during a violent demonstration in the Jelazoun refugee camp, near Ramallah, on June 12, 2015. (screen capture: Palestine TV)
A Palestinian man is beaten and restrained by IDF soldiers during a violent demonstration in the Jelazoun refugee camp, near Ramallah, on June 12, 2015. (screen capture: Palestine TV)

The past year saw worrying trends for human rights in Israel, with increased use of “illegal” and “humiliating” punitive measures, according to a Thursday report by one of the country’s premier rights organizations.

According to the 2015 report of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, more Israelis have experienced human rights violations than in the previous year, particularly in the field of criminal justice. The report does also mention some positive developments spurred by government initiatives, mainly in the area of socioeconomic rights.

“The report reveals alarming trends over the last year: Human rights violations have increased, the methods of operation previously used only in the West Bank were also adopted Israel and East Jerusalem, and more and more groups within Israeli society are experiencing human rights violations,” ACRI said in a statement coinciding with the report’s publication.

The report covers a wide range of topics, such as freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate, housing rights, privatization, Arab minority rights, rights of people with disabilities, access to water, healthcare and criminal justice.

The report says that the recent wave of violence that has spread across the country has intensified violations of personal security, due process and freedom of expression — measures the group say were also prevalent during last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip.

“The report points to a significant increase in the use of administrative detention and restraining orders. These methods are illegal alternatives to ordinary criminal procedures and they restrict human liberties without due process or trial,” the statement read.

Administrative detention is a measure whereby suspects are held for renewable six-month periods without charges. The vast majority of administrative detainees are Palestinian.

Israel in August, following a firebombing attack in the West Bank that killed three members of a single Palestinian family, extended administrative detention to Jewish suspects, among them the grandson of the late far-right mentor Rabbi Meir Kahane.

ACRI Executive Director Sharon Abraham-Weiss said that while the government has an obligation to adopt measures to prevent violence, “they must do so without deviating from the principles of criminal law and in full consideration of human rights.

“It must be remembered that decisions made quickly, and in the heat of the moment during times of tension remain and continue to affect us after the security situation has calmed down,” she said.

Despite these concerns, there were positive signs in 2015, said the study. It pointed to legislative success in governmental commissions on poverty, public health, affordable housing, and access to water. In addition, the Interior Ministry worked to absorb of thousands of contract workers into positions of direct employment, the report said.

After the report was released, Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi pointed to the figures under which 85 percent of police complaints by Palestinians against settlers were nixed after an investigation, and only 1.9% resulted in a conviction.

“When settlers or the property of settlers is harmed, the state doesn’t spare any investigation to reach the suspects, but when Palestinians or their property is harmed, in most cases, the investigation ends with nothing, if there even is an investigation,” she said. “This is an occupation, but a certain kind of occupation, where the occupiers don’t act like occupiers who have a responsibility toward the the population in question, but as ‘omnipotent masters.’ Against this regime, the masses only have one single option: resistance.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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