The police diligently investigate a complaint about police brutality, omitting one minor detail: the incriminating photos provided by the complainant.
In December 2014 a demonstration was held near the West Bank Tunnels Checkpoint on Route 60, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Palestinians were protesting the death of Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died three days earlier — on International Human Rights Day — a short while after he was photographed being choked by a Border Policeman during a demonstration against the illegal outpost of Adei Ad.
During the protest Youssef Abd Al Hamid Ahmed Hamdan Abu Maria was approached by a Border Policeman who, without any provocation on Abu Maria’s part, hit him strongly in the chest. Abu Maria lost consciousness and was evacuated to a nearby hospital.
Three weeks later Abu Maria lodged a complaint with the Police Internal Investigations Unit (Machash in Hebrew) against the policemen who assaulted him. He attached to the complaint the medical documents indicating the treatment he received. While presenting his complaint, Abu Maria noted that he had photos In his possession identifying the suspect who had assaulted him.
While it took the investigation four months to summon Abu Maria and take his statement, we will say in its favor that it then acted quickly and almost efficiently. The investigator sent a memo to the person in charge of the security cameras in the checkpoints on May 27th, two days after taking Abu Maria’s statement. However the latter replied that, unfortunately, the data on the cameras is only kept for two weeks – and at this point, six months have passed since the assault. A shame. This could have been useful.
After that the investigator diligently interviewed a series of witnesses: policemen who saw nothing, a cop who claimed that Abu Maria was “pretending,” a civilian who also saw nothing and another civilian who testified that Abu Maria was indeed assaulted without any reason. Following the investigation – whose very existence is remarkable, given that investigations unit closes a third of its cases without any investigative action (Hebrew) – the investigator reached the conclusion that he does not have the ability to identify a suspect. He closes the case with the clause all too known to readers of this blog: “unknown perpetrator”.
Let’s rewind to the original complaint lodged by Abu Maria in January 2015. He expressly said he had pictures of the policeman who assaulted him. He is also convinced that he noted their existence during the testimony he gave the investigator in May 2015. Even so, the investigator did not bother looking at them.
One of the least expected jobs human rights organizations have performed over the last decade has been supplying the authorities with evidence. We and the good people in the other human rights organizations do this time after time; we are always happy to provide the authorities with the evidence they did not manage to collect (without making any special effort to obtain it). So we did so time as well. In April 2016 Adv. Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man of our legal team appealed the police’s decision to close the case without looking at the photos. She attached them to the appeal, for their convenience.
Now we hope the police investigators will understand that there is a certain problem with the claim that a suspect cannot be fingered when there are photos of the said suspect. We hope they will act swiftly to identify and locate the suspect (the diligent investigator already identified the Border Police units present during the protest), and will then carry out the necessary investigative actions needed to bring about justice.
The pictures are on us. The ball is now in your court.