Israeli authorities use unnecessary force to quash
protest of detained asylum seekers
· Around 1000 asylum seekers left Holot detention center in the Negev and marched to the Egyptian border, protesting their indefinite detention.
· Israeli authorities used unnecessary force during violent arrests of protestors camped by the Egyptian border.
· 756 of the protestors are currently imprisoned in Saharonim prison, some still without a hearing after nine days in unlawful detention. Those injured complain of inadequate medical treatment.
What you can do to help?
In your contacts with the Israeli authorities, we encourage you to ask for independent, full and transparent investigation into the arrests and ensure that those found to have used unnecessary force against the protestors are brought to justice. Please urge the authorities to ensure that protestors have access to a fair and transparent judicial process and that those who were injured have access to adequate medical treatment. Finally, urge the Israeli government to cancel Amendment 4 of the Anti-infiltration Law, which allows for indefinite detention of asylum seekers in contradiction with Israel's international obligations.
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office is heavily involved in setting Israeli policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers. You may also wish to discuss this issue with your relevant contacts at the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Internal Security.
On Friday 27 June 2014, about 1,000 asylum seekers left Holot detention center and began marching towards the Israeli-Egyptian border. Many of them were carrying luggage and money. They were quickly stopped by IDF forces and subsequently camped a few hundred meters back at 'Nitzana Forest'.
Under Amendment 4 of the Anti-Infiltration Law, asylum seekers are detained indefinitely in Holot. Their only way out of detention is to agree to be "voluntarily" repatriated to Sudan or Eritrea, or to a third country such as Uganda or Rwanda. Such de facto deportations are in violation of the principle of non-refoulement and are unlawful with regard to international standards, whether or not they are conducted under bilateral transfer agreements.
One of the asylum seekers on the march told an Amnesty International Israel (AII) observant: "We have been in Israel for 6 years and asked for asylum. No one has examined our claims. People have now been in Holot for 6 or 7 months. Conditions there are very bad. A lot of people suffer from depression and are unable to cope. We know that the Israeli government calls it an open facility. But it is a prison. We cannot take it any longer."
On Sunday, 29 June 2014, around 18:00, hundreds of security forces, including Israeli Border Police and other police forces, accompanied by immigration authorities, arrived at the scene and surrounded the protestors. Some police were on horseback and forces were equipped with a water cannon. Yossi Edelstein, Director of the Population Administration's Foreign Workers' Enforcement Unit (part of the Ministry of Interior), was present. The police officer in charge publicly announced to the protestors that if they were to willingly evacuate the premises, no violence would be used against them.
At 19:15, security forces began the evacuation. An AII observer reported that evacuating forces dragged protestors on the ground, and used unnecessary force against at least half of them, including punches and kicks to various parts of the body.
One of the asylum seekers later told Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM) from Saharonim prison: "When we were in Nitzana, […] we agreed that regardless of what the police do to us, we would not be violent. When the police came to take me […] I only said "we are not going from here". Maybe because I am big and tall, a few policemen or [Immigration] inspectors attacked me […] four Ethiopian policemen [of Ethiopian descent] hit me and three others who were not Ethiopian […] they threw me on the ground and pushed my head to the ground with their legs. One of the Ethiopian policemen called me wäsha, which means dog in Amharic. I now suffer from severe pain to the neck, both sides [of the body] and my arm. I want to see a doctor and receive pain killers."
Please see attached file for more testimonies.
According to information gathered by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR), a total of eight asylum seekers required medical treatment during and following the arrests. Three were subsequently transferred to Soroka Hospital in B'eer Sheva: one with an injured knee, one with diabetes-related symptoms and a third person suffering from breathing difficulties. Of the five others (two who fainted, one with a broken finger, and two with pain in the stomach), three were transferred to Holot and two to Saharonim.
A total of 756 protestors were taken to the Saharonim. HRM has been in regular contact with many of the detainees. Under Amendment 4 of the Anti-Infiltration Law, detainees should undergo a hearing in Holot prior to their imprisonment in Saharonim. However, protestors were taken directly to Saharonim and some of them are still waiting for their hearing, nine days after the arrests. . Those who have undergone a hearing received a three-month sentence, with some sentenced to six months in prison.
This is not the first time that the Israeli authorities use unnecessary force against protesting asylum seekers. On 17 December 2013, the Israeli authorities violently arrested around 200 asylum seekers who marched to Jerusalem shortly after the introduction of the current legislation. Two days later, 75 asylum seekers who left Holot were violently stopped by Immigration authorities
Relevant International standards
According to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, officials must apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force which should be used only when non-violent means have proven to be, or are likely not to be, effective. If the use of force is unavoidable, they must always exercise restraint in its use. The use of any force by law enforcement should be strictly limited to those situations where it is absolutely necessary and strictly proportional to the legitimate aim pursued and to minimize damage and injury.
Israel has ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Optional Protocol as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Under these and additional international obligations, Israel is required to individually assess claims for international protection in a fair and transparent manner and provide asylum for those deserving of such status. Detention should only be used as a last resort; all individuals detained must undergo an individualized assessment justifying their detention and adhering to standards of necessity and proportionality.
Footage from the arrests:
 UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990, UN Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112 (1990), General Provision 4.
 UN Basic Principles, General Provision 5.