Israel does not have a written constitution as such, but its basic laws and rights enjoy quasi-constitutional status. Under Article 2 of the 1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty: "There shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person as such."
Article 8 stipulates that "There shall be no violation of rights under this Basic Law except by a law befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose, and to an extent no greater than is required." Article 11 provides that "All governmental authorities are bound to respect the rights under this Basic Law."
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory|
There is no regional human rights treaty to which Israel is a party.
Police Use of Force
Israeli police must use only reasonable force in the performance of their duties.Order 18 of Police Ordinance (New Version), 5731-1971.
Use of firearms by the Israeli police is governed by Police Order No. 06.02.14. The Order states that the use of firearms will be "as a last resort, with due caution, and only in circumstances where there is a logical relationship between the degree of danger arising from the use of the weapon and the result which they wish to prevent". The use of firearms to effect an arrest is prohibited unless it pertains to a crime involving serious endangerment to the life or integrity of a person and there is no other way to carry out the arrest.
Before discharging a firearm, the police officer is generally required to give a verbal warning and a warning shot is fired in the air, "while taking the necessary precautions to prevent damage". The duty to warn may be waived when immediate danger to the life or bodily integrity of the policeman or of another person is expected. When using a firearm, it must be discharged "in a manner that will cause, as far as possible, a slight injury to the integrity of the body or property".
Firing live ammunition in the air with a view to dispersing rioters is forbidden, unless authorised by the responsible officer.
Rules of Engagement in the Gaza Strip
These rules of engagement are classified secret, though they were discussed by the Supreme Court of Israel in Yesh Din v. Israeli Defence Force (see below Caselaw, National).
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
The 1997 Criminal Procedure Regulations (Powers of Enforcement – Arrests) (Conditions in Detention) governs use of force in custodial settings. Under Section 18(B) of the Regulations:
If a policeman or prison guard at the place of detention has a reasonable basis to fear that a detainee is about to flee or that he is about to inflict damage to a body or property or to otherwise harm the operation of the place of detention, he is authorised to exercise reasonable force against the detainee in order to prevent the flight or infliction of damage or harm as stated, provided that all of the following also applies:
(1) It is impossible to achieve the objective without use of force;
(2) The use of force is only to the reasonable extent necessary for achieving the aforementioned objective and does not continue after it is achieved;
(3) The use of force does not entail endangering human life.
The Department for Investigation of Police Officers in the Ministry of Justice or Machash has the function to examine the alleged commission of criminal offences by police personnel when the penalty is in excess of one year's imprisonment. Upon receipt of a complaint and after its initial examination by an Attorney, a decision is made on whether to open an investigation. If the Department decides a basis exists for the filing of an indictment against the Policeman, the case comes under the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Courts in the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Central and Southern Districts. The Machash is an independent body, external to the Police.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In 2014, in its Concluding Observations on Israel the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern at "persistent reports of excessive use of lethal force" by Israel’s security forces, "in particular the Israel Defense Forces, during law enforcement operations against Palestinian civilians, including children, particularly in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Access Restricted Areas of Gaza." The Committee noted the new policy announced by the Military Advocate General in 2011, according to which criminal investigations are automatically opened into some incidents involving fatalities in the West Bank, and the measures taken to investigate such incidents, but remained "concerned that accountability for such acts remains weak". The Committee called on Israel to:
(a) Take all necessary measures to prevent incidents of excessive use of force during law enforcement operations, including by ensuring that rules of engagement or open fire regulations of the State party’s security forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Access Restricted Areas of Gaza, are consistent with article 6 of the Covenant and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
(b) Ensure that prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigations are launched into all incidents involving the use of firearms by law enforcement officers, including members of the Israel Defense Forces, the Border Police and private security personnel contracted by the State party’s authorities;
(c) Ensure that those responsible for the disproportionate demolition of properties and the excessive use of force during arrest operations are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that victims are provided with effective remedies.
In 2016, in its Concluding Observations on Israel the Committee against Torture expressed its concern at allegations of excessive use of force, including lethal force, by security forces, mostly against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the access-restricted areas of the Gaza Strip, particularly in the context of demonstrations, in response to attacks or alleged attacks against Israeli civilians or security forces, and to enforce the access-restricted areas of the Gaza Strip.
The Committee was also concerned "at reports that accountability for instances of excessive use of force is rare". It called on Israel to "make more vigorous efforts to effectively prevent and sanction incidents of excessive force, including by ensuring that":
(a) Law enforcement and security officials are adequately trained in and comply with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, including in the access-restricted areas of the Gaza Strip;
(b) The rules of engagement or regulations on opening fire are fully consistent with the Convention and other relevant international standards. ...
(c) All instances and allegations of excessive use of force are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent body, that alleged perpetrators are duly prosecuted and, if found guilty, adequately sanctioned.
There is no regional human rights court with jurisdiction over police use of force in Israel.
Yesh Din and others v. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff
In its judgment, the Supreme Court (sitting as a High Court) accepted that the Rules of Engagement of the security forces in Gaza Strip are classified secret. It added that the Rules of Engagement
allow the use of live ammunition only in order to deal with violent riots, from which an actual, imminent and close danger is posed to IDF troops or Israeli civilians. In accordance with these Rules, the danger shall first and foremost be dealt with by verbal warnings and nonlethal means. If the use of these means does not remove the actual and imminent danger that is posed from the violent riot – and only in such case – do the rules permit, according to what we have been told, precise shooting towards the legs of a central rioter or central inciter, in order to eliminate the close and foreseeable danger.
The Court stated that “firing towards the legs of a central rioter or central inciter is meant to occur only as a last resort, and subject to strict requirements that derive from the principles of necessity and proportionality.”