In July 2014, police in East Jerusalem began using black sponge-tipped bullets as a means to disperse demonstrations and riots, instead of the blue sponge-tipped bullets that had been previously used. The black bullets are twice as hard and heavy and their potential to cause injury is much greater. The use of these bullets in a manner that deviates from police regulations has led to the injury of dozens of East Jerusalem residents, including minors.
From July 2014 – February 2016 ACRI collected 30 testimonies from people who have been injured by sponge bullets. Please click here to access a table of documented injuries sustained from sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem.
These cases include the tragic death of 16-year old Muhammad Sunqrat who was shot dead by one of the black sponge-tipped bullets in September 2014.
More than 12 residents have lost an eye as a result of being hit by a sponge bullet, and approximately half of them are children. These severe injuries indicate that treating the new sponge-tipped bullets as a non-lethal weapon is unreasonable, and that they are not an appropriate means for dispersing demonstrations and riots.
On Sunday, March 8, 2015, ACRI contacted the Chief Police Commissioner and the Attorney General to demand that they immediately order an end to the use of black sponge-tipped bullets until a full inquiry has been made into their safety. This renewed demand comes in response to a series of serious injuries suffered by East Jerusalem residents since the introduction of these new bullets. In the letter, ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu explained that these injuries are unacceptable and cast doubt upon the utility of these weapons in dealing with civil disturbances. The quantity and severity of the injuries necessitate an immediate halt to the use of these bullets subject to a thorough examination into their safety, regulations for their use, and their suitability as a non-lethal means of riot dispersal. Furthermore, it is worth considering the imposition of similar restrictions on the use of black sponge-tipped bullets as currently exists for rubber bullets. These restrictions include prohibition of their use except in extraordinary circumstances with the explicit approval of the Chief Commissioner.
On 15 October 2015 ACRI petitioned the Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Raz Nazari, regarding the continued use of harmful sponge bullets in East Jerusalem prior to scheduled a meeting on the subject. Please click here to read the letter (in Hebrew).
ACRI recently received data in response to a freedom of information request, indicating that 57,000 sponge-tipped bullets have been fired in the last two years, primarily in East Jerusalem.
To access ACRI’s list of documented injuries from sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem between July 2014 – February 2016, click here.
To read ACRI’s letter dated 15 October 2015 (in Hebrew), click here.
To read ACRI’s letter dated 8 March 2015, click here.
To read ACRI’s Report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the use of Less-Lethal Weapons in East Jerusalem, click here.
For further information about ACRI’s activities on this topic, click here.
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