Activist Nizar Banat Dies During Arrest: PCHR Condemns and Stresses Suspicion of Criminal Activity, and Calls for Investigation and Accountability
Date: 24 June 2021
Time: 11:30 GMT
Political activist Nizar Khalil Banat (43) was announced dead this morning after his arrest from his relative’s house in Hebron, Banat was assaulted during the arrest by a joint force of Palestinian security services. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) believes there is a valid suspicion of criminality in Banat’s death as security officers used excessive force without justification. It should be noted that Banat was a political activist, and he was neither armed nor wanted for justice. PCHR calls on the Attorney General to open a serious investigation into Banat’s death and its circumstances, which suggest reasonable doubt of criminality and demands the Attorney General publish the results publicly and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
According to PCHR’s investigations and eyewitness’ testimony, at approximately 03:00 on Thursday, 24 June 2021, Banat was asleep along with his relatives Mohammed and Husain Majdy Banat in a room on the ground floor of their father’s house located near Jawhar Mosque in southern Hebron. Suddenly, the room’s window was forcibly opened and two persons in civilian clothing and holding weapons and pepper spray entered the room. They pepper-sprayed Banat and the others in the face and opened the room’s door. As th try opened the door, several others entered the room, 3 of them were wearing T-Shirts written on them “Palestinian Preventive Service,” and severely beat Banat with sticks. One of the officers beat Banat with an iron bar on his head while another officer pointed his gun at Husain and Mohammed and prevented them from moving. Seven minutes later, the officers took Banat, who was in his underwear, out of the room and he was shouting due to the severe beating. They confiscated his cellphone and laptop. An hour after his arrest, Hebron Governmental Hospital declared Banat’s death.
Banat’s family accused Palestinian security services of severely beating their son during the arrest. It should be noted that 20 security officers took part in the arrest. The family added that Banat was taken to an unknown destination before his death was announced. Also, the family called for establishing an independent investigation committee to find out the true circumstances of the incident, as the family refuted the security services’ claims.
It should be noted that on 02 May 2021, gunmen fired bullets and stun grenades at Banat’s house. Also, the Palestinian security services arrested him several times on grounds of freedom of expression. Moreover, Banat was tried several times on grounds of his political views; the latest of which was on 20 November 2020, when he criticized the Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs and the Palestinian government due to resuming security cooperation with Israel. Accordingly, Banat was referred to court; he was released by the court.
PCHR emphasizes that any arrest must take into account the principles on the use of force and stresses the excessive use of force during arrests violates international standards binding to Palestinian Authority.
PCHR also points out that any death caused by the excessive use of force by security officers is considered a criminal offense which is not subjected to statutory limitations, and that its perpetrators must be held accountable according to the Palestinian Penal Code.
PCHR stresses the need to respect the principles of Palestinian basic law, in particular article 19, which emphasizes the right to freedom of expression. Also, PCHR affirms the need to respect Palestine’s international obligations under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
PCHR recalls that the Committee on Monitoring the Implementation of the Covenant affirmed in General Comment No. 34 that freedom of expression includes criticism of the authorities, and called on the authorities to tolerate political criticism and not criminalize it.
PCHR denounces this incident and holds the Palestinian security services responsible for Banat’s death.
PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to investigate the death circumstances of Banat, hold those responsible accountable and publish the results to public.
PCHR calls on the Palestinian Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister of Interior, to restrict the security services’ abuse of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and international laws binding to Palestine.