NGO Demands Immediate Criminal Probe of Police Torture in Nazareth

Lawyers from Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – have collected multiple sworn affidavits testifying to rampant, systemic attacks and brutal beatings of young Arab protesters by Israeli police, including innocent bystanders, children, and even attorneys inside the Nazareth police station during the period of widespread protests in the city during the month of May.

The testimonies from victims, attorneys, and paramedics on the scene tell a story of systemic brutality and physical, verbal, and psychological abuse of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel by Israel’s police in the northern city, and indicate that cops ran a “torture room” inside the Nazareth police station – an informal term whose initial use is traced to the recent detainees and lawyers on the scene.

Adalah submitted a formal complaint on Monday, June 7, detailing serious failures on the part of police officers and investigators in Nazareth that amount to grave criminal offenses, and which started on May 9 and continued for a number of days. In their letter, Adalah attorneys Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi and Wesam Sharaf highlighted brutal, overt Israeli police violence in Nazareth in breach of the rights of Arab citizens grabbed off the street and held in the station, including the rights to liberty, dignity and bodily integrity, as well as the right to counsel and due process.

Most of the violent arrests of and attacks on Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel in the city were carried out by Israeli special police forces, including undercover mista’aravim officers posing as Arabs. Israeli officers would continue beating, shoving, and choking detainees while walking them from the scene of their arrest to the city’s police station. Additional testimonies indicate police prevented Palestinian detainees in the Nazareth station from receiving urgent medical care for injuries resulting from beatings and attacks by officers, another extremely serious criminal offense.

Almost every night during the Nazareth protests, ambulances were summoned to the police station and injured Palestinian detainees were evacuated to the city’s hospitals. Other detainees appeared in court following their arrests displaying clearly visible signs of abuse and violence, including stitches on their head, facial swelling, scratches, and extensive bruising. Sworn testimonies collected from attorneys on the scene indicate Israeli police in Nazareth also attacked them and their colleagues, who were seeking to provide legal aid to Arab detainees, used force to distance them from the station, seized telephones and even detained one lawyer.

“What happened inside the police station in Nazareth amounts to torture and ill-treatment, and requires the immediate opening of a criminal investigation to examine the circumstances and conditions of the protesters’ detention at the station – including the investigation and prosecution of police officers involved in the violence,” Adalah attorneys wrote in the letter.

For more on the testimonies taken by Adalah:

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