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Police to Judge, and Punish / Asaf Weitzen

Police to Judge, and Punish / Asaf Weitzen

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Published by Ronnie Barkan

The upcoming elections will not only affect the lives of Israeli citizens. They will also affect the fate of more than 60 thousand African immigrants living here, that ignorance about the circumstances of their arrival to Israel along with fear and rare bureaucratic creativity, have led to a series of laws and regulations depriving them of their most basic legal protections which were given to them in the past.

The upcoming elections will not only affect the lives of Israeli citizens. They will also affect the fate of more than 60 thousand African immigrants living here, that ignorance about the circumstances of their arrival to Israel along with fear and rare bureaucratic creativity, have led to a series of laws and regulations depriving them of their most basic legal protections which were given to them in the past.

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Published by: Ronnie Barkan on Nov 28, 2012
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Police to Judge, and Punish

Asaf Weitzen 26.11.2012 20:00 The upcoming elections will not only affect the lives of Israeli citizens. They will also affect the fate of more than 60 thousand African immigrants living here, that ignorance about the circumstances of their arrival to Israel along with fear and rare bureaucratic creativity, have led to a series of laws and regulations depriving them of their most basic legal protections which were given to them in the past. Take A for example, an Eritrean citizen who is living in Israel for several years. Since the authorities have recognized that A's life would be put in danger if deported, he was given a permit to stay in the country. In another country he would have long ago been recognized as a refugee. Several weeks ago he was taken for questioning following a quarrel among neighbors. After the police determined that there was insufficient evidence to take him to court, he was taken to the "Saharonim" detention facility in the Negev where it was made clear to him that he is an "infiltrator" and has been in custody ever since without the possibility for release. This incarceration is made possible due to a recently published procedure by the interior and justice ministries, stating that "infiltrators involved in criminal activity" will be imprisoned without trial for an unlimited period, even where there is not enough evidence for an indictment. The procedure also states that people who completed serving time will remain in prison, and will even be reimprisoned if the have already been released. If we also take into account the breaching of the penalty scale – as in such cases the judgment against one suspected of stealing food in a supermarket becomes identical to that of a convicted murderer – we end up with a procedure that is not only breaking new records in its abusive treatment of African immigrants, but also in the willingness of the state to violate its most basic rules simply in order to "make their lives unbearable" according to the Interior Minister. Ironically, it is the Justice Minister, who may serve in office only after being acquitted at the end of a criminal proceeding and the Minister of Interior, whose leading party member had just finished serving a prison term imposed on him by the court, who are now crushing together the due criminal process. It is ironic because if the procedure was applied to Yaakov Neeman and Aryeh Deri, they themselves would have been imprisoned for acts which were attributed to them a few years ago. When the police is authorized to act not only as an enforcement agency but also as the judicial punishing branch, then separation of powers collapses and the Israeli democracy – whose condition is not excellent – receives yet another blow. In the engine, not in the wing. It seems as if it is only a matter of time until the temptation to deny the legal status from other groups of the population, to be controlled by an almighty police, will defeat all opposition. It is therefore essential that candidates in the upcoming primary elections will say upfront where they stand with regard to asylum seekers in Israel. Will they undertake to protect them, while not sitting in a coalition that will carry on producing laws and policies whose stated purpose is to make life impossible for African migrants, while at the same time dismantling the fundamental principles of Israeli law. From the more progressive candidates we would like to hear what measures will be taken in order to increase the recognition rate of refugees in Israel, barely a quarter of a percent, to the average rate in the world which is a hundred times higher. Perhaps given the current political climate this is not a simple request to be made, but with the absence of a clear and honest answer what point is there in the upcoming elections other than the symbolic ceremony of casting a ballot? The writer is an attorney at the Hotline for Migrant Workers
Source: http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/1.1873818 Translation: Ronnie Barkan

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