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Family of Abbas critic, who died in PA custody, seeks international justice

Relatives of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat ask UN human rights bodies, Britain’s Metropolitan Police to open investigations under principle of universal jurisdiction

Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The family of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in Palestinian custody in June, stepped up its quest for international justice on Thursday, turning to British police and the United Nations.

Banat — a leading critic of the Palestinian Authority and its 86-year old president Mahmoud Abbas — died after security forces stormed his home in the flashpoint city of Hebron and dragged him away.

A post-mortem found that he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death.

Banat’s family has said that it has no confidence in the PA’s capacity to deliver justice, and called for an international probe.

A statement from the family’s lawyers, the British firm Stoke White, said that they have asked Britain’s Metropolitan Police to open an investigation under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

For a small number of serious offenses, Britain’s courts can hear cases even if the alleged crimes were committed abroad.

Stoke White also said that it had asked multiple branches of the UN human rights system to open investigation, including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and four special rapporteurs.

Nizar Banat, an outspoken of the Palestinian Authority, speaks to journalists at the family house, in the West Bank city of Hebron, on May 4, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Ghasan Khalil Banat said that his brother’s “murder” was a “tragedy for our family, but also a tragedy for the Palestinian people.”

“The so-called investigation that was carried out into his murder is an embarrassment and the PA should feel ashamed of it,” he said in the statement.

The head of international law at Stoke White, Hakan Camuz, said: “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 Mohammed Shtayyeh.”

Shtayyeh and the PA have promised accountability over Banat’s death. However, Camuz accused the PA of a long-standing bid to silence dissent.

“They cannot be allowed to get away with this and this is why we are submitting these complaints and petitions to the British police and the UN,” he said in the statement.

The UN and the European Union this week raised alarm over a spate of arrests of activists by Palestinian security forces since Banat’s death, warning that the PA appeared to be cracking down on basic freedoms across the West Bank, a territory controlled by Israel since 1967.

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