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From the field

4 May 2009: Policemen indicted for beating resident of East Jerusalem in Tel Aviv

Yesterday, 3 May, the Department for the Investigation of Police filed an indictment against three policemen, alleging that they assaulted Tareq Abu Laban in Tel Aviv last year.

In the early hours of 20 June 2008, Abu Laban, 22, who works for HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual and is a resident of East Jerusalem, was sitting in a car with friends near the David International Hotel, in Tel Aviv. Three policemen who passed by - Oz Cohen, Moshe Cohen, and Niso Tahar - demanded that he and his friends show them their identity cards and car documents. Following the check, one of the policemen threw some of the documents at Abu Laban. Shortly after that, the policemen ordered Abu Laban and his friends to get out of the car.

While they stood in the street, Abu Laban turned and glanced at a young woman who passed behind him. In his testimony to B'Tselem, Abu Laban related that one of the policemen asked him, “If your sister had passed by, would you look at her the same way?” A few minutes later, two of the policemen began to beat him. They then made him enter the police car and drove off. Two of the policemen cuffed him and continued to beat him. According to Abu Laban, “they hit me in the head, slapped me very hard, and kicked me all over my body. There was hardly any room, and I couldn't move at all. One of them hit me on the head with a plastic bottle full of water. My head and body hurt a lot. I had trouble breathing because of the blows and the way I was sitting. I almost choked. While beating me, they swore at me, calling me a ‘son of a bitch' and ‘Arab bastard', and said, “Apologize.”

The policemen threatened Abu Laban that they “would open a police file against me and ruin my studies and life if I didn't apologize.” He apologized repeatedly, but the three continued to beat him. They then returned him to his car, where his friends were waiting. His friends drove him to Hadassah Hospital, Mount Scopus, in Jerusalem, for treatment. The physicians found signs of violence, and he remained in the hospital for monitoring for 16 hours.

HaMoked demanded that the authorities investigate the incident. On 3 May 2009, Ynet reported that the Department for the Investigation of Police had filed an indictment against the three policemen, who were charged with aggravated assault, misuse of force, deceit, breach of trust, and threats.

Indictments against security forces relating to assaults on Palestinians are uncommon, even though violence by police and soldiers against Palestinians in the West Bank has been routine for some time.

Government officials condemn beatings and abuse of Palestinians and rush to dissociate themselves from them. However, the law-enforcement authorities generally refrain from conducting serious investigations of alleged incidents and from prosecuting offenders. Of the 353 complaints alleging violence by police and soldiers that B'Tselem has forwarded to the authorities since September 2000, disciplinary or criminal proceedings have been initiated in only 16 cases, to the best of B'Tselem's knowledge. This policy transmits a dangerous message to security forces, whereby the bodily integrity and dignity of Palestinians may be ignored, and that members of the security forces who harm them will not have to pay a price for their actions..