Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Israel's AG okays detaining migrants for minor crimes - even without evidence

photo: Activestills
Date: 4.7.13 Source: HAARETZ

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein Wednsday approved a procedure by which migrants from Sudan and Eritrea suspected of relatively minor criminal acts, but who for lack of evidence cannot be indicted, may be imprisoned for prolonged periods.

According to the procedure, “harm to the public order” includes crimes against property such as stealing a cellphone or a bicycle, forgery, particularly of visas and permits, and violence, including threats and assault. The procedure also sets criteria for canceling a migrant’s residency permit, which involve the nature of the offense and how often the offense was repeated.

Over the past year, hundreds of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea have been locked up based on the procedure. In some cases the courts have criticized the procedure and the way it is applied.

Attorney Asaf Weitzen, legal adviser to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said: “Instead of internalizing the courts’ criticism, the state has chosen to lower the threshold that allows a person to be incarcerated without charges being brought. The amended procedure shows the abandonment of the rule of law in Israel. The ability to lock up a person for his whole life, without the possibility of release, on suspicion of ‘stealing a cellphone’ should shock each and every one of us.”

According to Weitzen, if the state wants to continue saying that it respects human rights, then “either it has no idea what rights are, or it has no idea what and who is human.”