Police Refuse Freedom of Information Request by Haaretz on Women Murdered by Partners

It's feared that a large percentage of the murdered women had requested police protection, and that the police apparently failed to protect them

A memorial ceremony for women who were murdered by a member of their family.
Ilan Assayag

The Israel Police declined a Freedom of Information request submitted by Haaretz regarding women who were murdered in the past decade by their intimate partners or ex-partners, saying the requested information did not fall under the FOI act.

Haaretz requested the names and personal details of the victims, whether they had filed complaints about violence before they were murdered and, if they had, whether the police took steps to protect them.

“This information is classified investigatory material from the investigation files, therefore it is not considered ‘information’ as defined in the Freedom of Information Act,” the police said by way of explaining their refusal, adding: “This is also information that is covered by the Privacy Protection Act, and it invades the privacy of the deceased.”

Only the police have information about complaints filed by the women who were murdered. When the police refuse to reveal the information, civil-society organizations conduct private follow-ups of the women who are murdered. On the basis of information collected by the organizations, and partial police figures received by Haaretz, it is feared that a large percentage of the women who are murdered complained and requested police protection, and the police apparently failed to protect them.

Official police data sent to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women indicate that between January and October 2016, eight women were murdered by their partners. Three of them complained earlier to the police.

A crowd gathers at the site where an Israeli Arab woman, Muna Mahjana, was murdered by her brother, a prisoner on furlough, in Umm al-Fahm, 2013.
Nimrod Glickman

“This is an acute problem. Four of the five Arab women who were murdered since the beginning of 2017 complained previously to the police,” said Samah Salaime, an activist against domestic violence. “Our follow-up of Arab women murdered each year clearly indicates that about 80 percent complain prior to the murder. The police understand that publishing this information would embarrass them, which is why they don’t do so. This is a policy of concealment and burying their heads in the sand instead of genuine confrontation. This policy doesn’t prevent the next murder, it tries to hide it,” she said.

According to the Women’s International Zionist Organization, which also conducts an independent follow-up but doesn’t get information about complaints, in the past decade 185 women were murdered by a relative or a partner.

The police did agree to provide data on the number of women murdered from 2007 to 2016. They said that during this period, 125 women were murdered in those years by their partners. One of the victims was a minor, the remainder were aged 18 and up. Of the 125 women, 74 percent were married, 14 percent were divorced and 12 percent were single. The largest number of murders, 30 percent, took place in the Central Police District, followed by the Tel Aviv District (16.5 percent); the southern and northern districts, with 15.5 percent each; the Coastal District (12 percent) and the Jerusalem District (7 percent).

Another figure that explains the authorities’ lack of success in protecting the women who complain is the number of violations of protective orders forbidding the violent partners to come near the woman: About 10 percent of the restraining orders issued in 2016 were violated, and about 500 complaints of such violations were received last year, out of a total of about 7,000 orders.

One of the women who complained to police before she was murdered was Dua’a Abu Sharkh, 32, from Lod, who was shot to death in 2016 in front of her four children. She complained of violence several times to the welfare services. Two years before the murder, her former partner abducted her and tried to murder her but she managed to escape. She was offered an opportunity to stay in a shelter for battered women on three separate occasions. The welfare authorities told police that she was in danger, that she had refused to go to a shelter and was living with her parents, but no effective measures were taken to keep her violent ex-partner away.

Anastasia Rusonov, 29, had also complained to the police about violence from her ex-partner before her murder in May 2016. While she was filing the complaint he sent her a text message: “I know you are at the police station. Leave.” After she showed officers the message, she was placed in a shelter. The welfare department told Haaretz at the time that she was clearly in great danger. Rusonov was murdered a few days after leaving the shelter.

According to figures presented to the Knesset committee, 22 percent of women who go to a shelter leave within a week, in most cases still under threat.

“A woman has a right to live her life as she chooses. I would like women to receive protection in any event, and not only if they hide in a shelter, and for the person who is threatening them not to walk around free. The police and the welfare authorities must find a solution that will protect women better. Half the women tried to find protection, but the system failed. It’s a systemic failure that attests to criminal negligence,” says the Chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, MK Aida Tuma-Suleiman (Joint List).

The ex-husband of Amana Yassin, 35, had served eight months in prison for assaulting his second wife. Yassin had two children and was in her ninth month of pregnancy when she was murdered in Tamra in August.

According to the Israel Prison Service, more than 70 percent of the men who are in prison for domestic violence have been in prison before, and 30 percent are serving a sixth sentence or more.