The family of a Palestinian man who died soon after being arrested by Palestinian Authority (PA) security officers in June have called on the United Nations and the U.K. police to launch formal investigations into his death.
Nizar Banat, a prominent activist and critic of the PA, died in custody in the early hours of June 24. His family said he was forcefully and unlawfully detained by PA security services at around 3.30am that day. Two family members who were in the house at the time say they were also beaten by the security services.
Within two hours, Banat was pronounced dead. His death led to widespread protests. An independent autopsy requested by the family found he was killed as a result of being beaten and tortured.
The PA, which is the governing authority in parts of the occupied Palestinian territories, apologized for his death and carried out an investigation. PA justice minister Mohammed al-Shalaldeh acknowledged the death was “unnatural” but insisted it was not part of a pattern of oppression of the regime’s critics. Banat’s family insist the official investigation was not independent and there have been no repercussions for those involved.
His family have now asked the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and four UN special rapporteurs – who focus on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Morris Tidball-Binz); human rights in the Palestinian Territories (Michael Lynk); human rights defenders (Mary Lawlor); and freedom of opinion and expression (Irene Khan) – to open an independent investigation into what they describe as his murder.
They have also asked London’s Metropolitan Police (Met) to open an investigation into his death under the principle of universal jurisdiction – that gives authorities the right to investigate crimes against international law, even if they have not taken place in their territory.
London law firm Stoke White has asked the Met to investigate seven high-ranking individuals from the PA for torture and war crimes: including minister of civil affairs Hussein Sheikh; head of the Palestinian Preventive Security (PPS) agency in the West Bank Ziad Hab Al-Rih; and Hebron governor Jibril Al-Bakri.
Banat’s brother Ghasan Khalil Moh’d Banat said: “Whenever my brother saw the corruption and injustice of the Palestinian Authority, he would not be afraid to speak out against it. It is this same corruption, injustice and brutality which has killed him… We are now asking the U.N. and the U.K. police to carry out their own investigations so that we feel some sense of justice for what was done to Nizar. Our people cannot continue to be oppressed like this from all sides.”
Lawyers for Banat’s family say they are also in the process of making an application to the International Criminal Court against the Palestinian Authority.
“Responsibility for the murder of Nizar Banat very clearly lies with the senior leadership of the Palestinian Authority including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh,” said Hakan Camuz, head of international law at Stoke White. “They have been directing their security services for many years to suppress freedom of expression, oppress any opposition and trample on any and all Palestinian human rights.”