Daily Israel Report

A-G: Youths Can Testify Against Cops Without Fear

Youths who say they were victimized by police during the forcible evacuation of Shvut Ami will be able to testify without fear of being indicted.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/19/2008, 5:50 PM

Youths who say they were victimized by police during the forcible evacuation of the Shvut Ami outpost will be able to testify without fear of being indicted - thanks to a decision by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

Shvut Ami is one of five tiny satellite communities "founded" in Yesha (Judea and Samaria) this past October by the grassroots Land of Israel Loyalists organization. Most of the five did not last for more than a day, as IDF forces and Border Guard policemen evicted the "residents" by the next morning.  But Shvut Ami, near Kedumim in central Samaria, lasted for several days before many activists, including minors, were violently evacuated, and ten were arrested.  At least two of the latter, boys aged 14 and 15, said they were brutally beaten at the police station by Policeman Abu Salman Aslah. 

The two, however, as well as others who were hurt in police violence there, were afraid to come forward to complain - for fear that they would be arrested merely for having been at Shvut Ami.  This, in keeping with a recent and unusually harsh directive by Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordering indictments to be handed down against citizens simply for being present at the site of an unauthorized outpost.

Mazuz Says Yes to Yesha
The Yesha Civil Rights Organization, headed by Orit Strook of Hevron, then requested that the Shvut Ami protestors be granted legal protection from the danger of self-incrimination - and this week, Attorney General Mazuz accepted the request.

With Barak's directive thus neutralized, some of the Shvut Ami protestors hurried to nearby police stations to file complaints against policemen who beat them.

Jews Say Yes to Arabs
Barak's order had been issued several weeks earlier, at the behest of the far-left "Yesh Din" organization.  Members of this Jewish group have gone so far as to attempt to populate Shvut Ami themselves, in the hope of handing it over to local Arab residents.

The Yesha civil rights group's request to Mazuz was written up by Attorney Chaim Cohen.  Cohen wrote that Barak's directive "could strike a grave blow at the chance of investigating and meting out justice to the policemen who committed grave violations of the law in Shvut Ami... The policemen were guilty of beating handcuffed arrestees, interfering in investigations by confiscating cameras, and even sexual harassment of young female protestors."

This is the third time Mazuz has made a decision of this type.  Immunity was also granted to protestors from Amona two years ago, as well as to those who made their way to the Disengagement-destroyed community of Homesh in the Shomron several months ago.

"When grave crimes by policemen are suspected," Cohen wrote, "such as destroying evidence, severe violence and sexual harassment, compared with relatively light violations by the protestors such as standing in a closed military zone [and the like], it is incumbent upon the law enforcement agencies to give preference to wiping out any vestige of law-breaking by those who represent the law... Therefore, in extreme cases such as this one, in our humble opinion, the witnesses and complainants must be granted immunity, in order that the truth be revealed."

In accepting the request, Mazuz's office made clear that those suspected of crimes other than merely "standing in a closed military zone" will not be granted the requested immunity.