The family of a Palestinian activist who died while in Palestinian Authority custody has filed a “war crimes and torture” case with the International Criminal Court, they said on Thursday.
Nizar Banat, a well-known Palestinian critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a large following on social media, died in the custody of Palestinian police in Hebron in June 2021. His death sparked mass protests and an angry condemnation of the Palestinian Authority for part of leading figures in the West Bank and beyond.
In a statement from The Hague, Banat’s brother, Ghassan Khalil Moh’d Banat, said the family felt the need to turn to the ICC for “an unpoliticized investigation and prosecution of criminals.”
“When my brother was assassinated, he was becoming a leading opponent of (Palestinian Authority President) Mahmoud Abbas, simply speaking the truth about this corrupt and authoritarian regime. The way they killed him and are trying to get away with it reflects the level of impunity and moral corruption that plagues this regime,” Banat said.
The Palestinian Authority indicted 14 officers after Banat’s death. Banat’s family said the officers were “low-ranking” and that the trial was “a sham” and that no senior officers were questioned.
International Amnesty He said that it was a violation of human rights standards to carry out the investigation and trial before a military court instead of a civilian court. On the first anniversary of Banat’s death, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, called the military justice process a “smokescreen to protect those at the top”.
The family’s lawyer, Hakan Camuz, said Thursday that the case is the first time a Palestinian has brought the Palestinian Authority before the ICC.
“The Palestinian Authority has been a state party to the ICC since 2015. However, it has always been conceived as a protection against Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has become another oppressor of the Palestinian people, just as much as Israel,” Camuz said in a statement. “Nizar Banat was assassinated because he exposed the corruption and violence of this regime. We are seeking justice for him, for his family, but also for all the people of Palestine”.
CNN has asked the Palestinian Authority Presidency to comment on the case. CNN has also asked the ICC Prosecutor’s Office to confirm that it has received the case file.