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Family of activist who died in PA custody seeks international justice

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, steps up its quest for international justice, turning to British police and the UN.

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.

An autopsy found 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 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, says 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.

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

Stoke White also says it has asked multiple branches of the United Nations human rights system to open investigation, including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and four special rapporteurs.

Ghasan Khalil Banat says 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 says in the statement.

The head of international law and Stoke White, Hakan Camuz, says: “Responsibility for the murder of Nizar Banat very clearly lies with the senior leadership of the Palestinian Authority including President Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.”

Shtayyeh and the PA have promised accountability over Banat’s death.

Camuz accuses the PA of a longstanding 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 says in the statement.

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