Investigation Into Police Brutality Against Ethiopian-Israeli Marred by Failures, Court Rules

While Jajaw Bimro was lying on the ground, officer yelled at him to 'go back to Africa'

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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A Jewish Ethiopian man is arrested during the protest against racism and police brutality in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 3, 2015
A Jewish Ethiopian man is arrested during the protest against racism and police brutality in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 3, 2015Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel's police oversight body was negligent in its investigation of a police violence complaint filed by a young man of Ethiopian descent, a Tel Aviv District Court found on Monday.

The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police misconduct was ordered to payJajaw Bimro 10,000 shekels ($2,851) for legal fees, on top of the 40,000 shekels that he has already received from a decision by a lower court.

The ministry “didn’t work in accordance with the norms expected of it,” Judge Sara Dotan ruled, adding that “an examination of the sequence of events in this investigation raise serious questions regarding the motivation to reach the truth.”

>> Read more: Police violence is pushing Ethiopian Israelis to fear, fury and despair | Opinion ■ Ethiopian Israelis protesting say what Israel needs to hear: This is a racist country | Opinion

Bimro filed a civil suit against the police after he was attacked on the first night of Passover in 2012. Police confronted Bimro and others while responding to a fight - although he was not involved in the commotion. The police used tear gas and stun grenade; while Bimro was lying on the ground, a policeman yelled at him to "go back to Africa.”

The investigation that followed was marred by delays. Bimro attempted to file a complaint the day after the incident, but was told the office was closed for the holiday. He filed the complaint a week later. The investigato, who went out a day after, managed to confirm Bimro's version of events with the kiosk owner. The police had “hit them, caught them, and put them in the patrol car,” the man said.

Video footage from the store's surveillance cameras had been deleted, but no attempts were made to retrieve it until three months later - and were not found. The failure to get the tapes was termed a "mystery" by the court.

Police officers were only questioned more than three months after the facts, and after a forensic report unquestionably proved Bimro had been shot with a stun gun.

Ethiopian Israelis clash with police officers in a protest in Tel Aviv, May 4, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Shortly after, the investigation unit decided to close the case for lack of evidence. Bimro eventually sued the state for negligence and police brutality. The defense first tried to broker a deal under which he would compensated in exchange for dropping the charges.

Bimro refused, and a lower court eventually awarded 30,000 shekels (around $11,400) for the assault, but threw out his negligence claim. He was ordered to pay 30,000 shekels ($8,600) for “excessive costs,” caused by his insistence on pursuing the negligence claim.

Bimro appealed to the district court. Now it has ruled in his favor.

Citing a “sequence of failures” in the investigation, Judge Dotan said this was "not the diligence expected of a police investigation department investigating a complaint of violence,"noting that the testimony of the police officers was strewn with the phrase “I don’t remember.”

Bimro felt “relief and release," he told Haaretz on Tuesday. "It’s a weight off my heart."

"They suggested I take the money and go, but I wanted the police investigation department to recognize that there had been a negligence, so they can work to prevent other incidents,” Bimro said.

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