EU & human rights organizations call on the PA to prosecute those responsible for the killing of Banat 

Bethlehem/PNN/

International organizations and human rights organizations call on the Palestinian Authority, in various press releases, to prosecute those responsible for the killing of Nizar Banat in prison yesterday.

The European Union Representative issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Heads of Mission of Canada, Norway and Switzerland associate themselves with this statement.

On 24 June, activist and former candidate for the Palestinian Legislative Council Nizar Banat was pronounced dead shortly after being arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces in Hebron.

According to direct witnesses, more than a dozen Palestinian security forces officers entered a house last night and beat Nizar Banat with steel batons for several minutes before taking him away. Two hours after the raid, the family was informed through a public statement of Hebron’s governor that Nizar Banat had died.

The death of Nizar Banat is of serious concern and takes place against the backdrop of an increasingly persistent practice by Palestinian security forces of detention and ill-treatment of human rights activists and political opponents exercising their right of freedom of expression and association. The EU is also gravely concerned about reports of an increase in apparently politically motivated arrests over the past few months in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Violence against politicians and human rights defenders is unacceptable and the Palestinian Authority remains responsible for upholding human rights in the areas where it is able to exercise control. The death of Nizar Banat must be investigated immediately through an independent body and in a fully transparent manner. Those responsible for his death must be held accountable.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights followed up on the death of the activist and political opponent Nizar Banat (44 years), the former candidate of the Freedom and Dignity electoral list for the postponed Legislative Council elections.

Nizar’s death was announced shortly after his arrest in the southern area of ​​Hebron by a security force, at approximately 3:00am, June 24 2021.

As soon as ICHR became aware of the incident, we began an investigation, and in coordination with colleagues at the Al-Haq Foundation, we collected field testimonies from eyewitnesses, who were with the activist Banat at the time of his arrest. We also assigned a forensic doctor on behalf of the Commission, who participated in addition to a doctor representing the family to monitor the autopsy of the activist’s body.

Based on the preliminary autopsy observations, the eyewitnesses’ testimonies, and the previous commission’s follow-up to the case of Banat, we conclude the following, The activist, Banat, suffered harassment and threats for a while, and he was prosecuted for his legitimate political activity and expression of opinion. His house was shot at on 2/5/2021, and the Commission had previously called on the official authorities to stop pursuing him and provide him with protection.

The charges brought against the activist Banat (defaming authorities, defamation, or otherwise) are charges related to opinion and expression and are considered minor misdemeanors that do not require the form and method of arrest that took place in terms of timing, dawn, size and nature of the participating force.

Autopsy observations confirmed the presence of injuries represented in the form of bruises and abrasions in many areas of the body, including the head, neck, shoulders, chest, back, upper and lower limbs, with cuffing marks on the wrists and rib fractures. The preliminary autopsy results also indicate, according to the Commission’s doctor and the family doctor that death is abnormal, but determining the main cause of death from a clinical point of view requires waiting until laboratory tissue test results are out.

We believe that what the activist Banat was exposed to is a serious incident against a political opponent that requires initiating a criminal investigation and bringing all those responsible and involved to the competent judicial authorities to take legal measures against them.

We call on the President to stop the state of emergency declared since March 2020, which is extended on a monthly basis.

The necessity for members of the security services to abide by the law, regulations and instructions, and to respect the rights and freedoms sanctioned by the Palestinian Basic Law, while carrying out their duties.

Stop prosecuting any citizen based on opinion and expression, release public rights and freedoms, and amend legislation that authorizes the provisional arrest of citizens.

Reviewing the procedures for summoning citizens, stopping night raids and arrests at dawn hours, and leave implementing summons to the judicial police in uniform.

Immediate release all detainees in connection with political activity, opinion and expression, or participation in the elections that have been postponed.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights, in partnership with Al-Haq Foundation, will issue a final report on the matter after the final forensic report is issued.

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