The family of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in June 2021 while in the custody of the Palestinian Authority, said they are submitting Banat’s case to the International Criminal Court this Thursday.
Banat was a leading critic of the P.A. and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas. According to his relatives, the activist died after P.A. security forces raided his home in Hebron in the early morning hours, tearing down the door and beating him with iron batons while he was still asleep, spraying him with pepper spray and then dragging him naked into custody.
A post-mortem concluded that Banat was beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, and that he died less than an hour after being arrested.
“They beat him for about eight straight minutes,” Banat’s cousin Mohammad said at the time.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral of the 43-year-old Banat in June, demanding Abbas’ resignation.
“People here are incredibly angry at the Palestinian Authority,” said a reporter on location from Al Jazeera News at the time. “They are calling for the downfall of the regime.”
The family chose to submit Banat’s case to the ICC after 14 members of the P.A.’s security forces, who were involved in Banat’s arrest and death, were released on bail earlier this year, awaiting their military trial.
“At that time, we understood that the regime of the Palestinian Authority, the police, the security officers, have more authority than the court, that they were above the court,” Banat’s brother, Ghassan Banat, said, adding that “there is no justice enforcement.”
“That is why we have decided to move on to the international arena,” he said. Ghassan said his brother was killed because he had “challenged Mahmoud Abbas and was telling people the truth about the real situation of the Palestinian Authority.”
“We demand justice for a man who was doing nothing but speaking the truth to power,” said the family’s lawyer Hakan Camuz. It is the first time that Palestinians have brought a case against other Palestinians, according to Camuz.
It is possible for anyone to submit a case to the International Criminal Court, but the court is not obligated to take it on.
The death of Banat caused rare protests in Ramallah against the P.A, with protesters calling on Abbas to resign and shouts of “Justice for Nizar.” Furthermore, a poll conducted in September 2021 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that 63% of Palestinians believe Banat’s death was “a deliberate measure ordered by the PA political or security leaders.”
The poll, which surveyed Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, also showed that 73% of Palestinians were dissatisfied with Abbas, while just 24% were satisfied.
“Moreover, 78% of the public want president Abbas to resign while only 19% want him to remain in office,” the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found. “Three months ago, 68% said they want Abbas to resign. Demand for Abbas’ resignation stands at 78% in the West Bank and 77% in the Gaza Strip.”
Abbas has held office since his election in 2005 and has canceled all elections since then, including the ones scheduled to take place last year after much delay.
The Banat family’s submission of the case to the ICC comes after the Qatari television network Al Jazeera submitted the case of the death of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month. In its submission, Al Jazeera claimed that the Israeli Defense Forces “deliberately killed” the journalist to “target and silence” Al Jazeera.