August 14, 2012 - 12:00am

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) wants the Justice Ministry to re-open cases of police misconduct filed by Arab residents living in East Jerusalem.

The ministry's department in charge of investigating complaints against policemen closed several cases in recent months for lack of evidence or public interest, the Ha'aretz daily reported Monday.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war. Its 270,000 Arab residents carry Israeli ID cards and are eligible for all municipal services.

In one of the above-mentioned cases, police allegedly unlawfully detained a 7-year-old boy suspected of throwing stones.

According to the family's account, police fired crowd-dispersal weapons - possibly rubber bullets or tear gas - at the child's aunt when she protested the arrest. The father said police hit him with a rifle butt and pepper-sprayed him in the face.

The policemen then took the minor to the station alone, without his parents. Despite submitting an official complaint over the alleged behavior, officials told the family six months later that the case was closed due to "lack of culpability."

The ministry's investigation department claims the policemen faced physical resistance in the event, requiring the use of stricter measures.

However, ACRI attorney Nasrin Alian said in an appeal that, irregardless of other issues involved, taking a 7-year-old boy from his home is illegal.

"The facts are not in dispute: detaining a 7-year-old without his parents while using force is not legal, as well as firing crowd-dispersal equipment directly at a person," she wrote in the appeal.

Alian further claims that the ministry didn't implement basic investigative protocols, including questioning the policemen themselves, other witnesses, or family members.

She also noted the department refused to share any material on the case with ACRI.

In another case ACRI is appealing, an East Jerusalem resident, who was driving in his car, passed by an area where police forces chased stone-throwing youths from a nearby village.

According to the individual, a policemen stopped him, and then pulled him out of the vehicle. The officer then threw him to the ground, kicking and punching him, and then ordered him to leave the area.

Although the citizen offered video documentation of the policemen's behavior, officials closed the case three month later citing "lack of public interest."

However, Alian charged, "How can it be that the unreasonable use of force against a bystander is not of public interest?"

But officials responded that "From the incident as viewed in the video, which was checked by department investigators, it emerged that the use of force was limited to forcibly removing the complainant from his car and distancing him from the scene."

In response to other reports, the ministry said: "the appeal notification does not reflect the whole picture and background of the incidents. The department works decisively to complete investigations into incidents in which a criminal violation is suspected. In 2011, the department pursued more than 200 policemen for various violations."

The area suffers neglect in infrastructure, construction and funding, among other issues. The Palestinian National Authority ( PNA) cannot provide services, due to strictures detailed in Israeli-PNA agreements, and municipality officials say they are often harassed by local residents, and therefore refrain from entering some areas, fearing for their safety.

Two months ago, tens of thousands of residents suffered severe water shortages due to illegal water tapping.


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