The family of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat will submit a case Thursday to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing top Palestinian officials over his death in custody, relatives told Agence France-Presse (AFP). Banat, a leading critic of the Palestinian National Authority led by president Mahmoud Abbas, died in June 2021 after being dragged from his home in the occupied West Bank by security forces.
A post-mortem 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. The family’s lawyer, Hakan Camuz, told AFP:
We demand justice for a man who was doing nothing but speaking the truth to power.
The case to be lodged at ICC accuses seven Palestinian officials of responsibility for Banat’s death. Any person or group can file a complaint to the Hague-based ICC prosecutor for investigation, but the court is not obliged to take them on. The decision to take the case to the ICC comes after 14 members of the Palestinian security forces were released on bail, pending their military trial in the West Bank over Banat’s death.
The activist’s brother, Ghassan Banat, said their release earlier this year left him believing “there is no justice enforcement”. He said:
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.
That is why we have decided to move on to the international arena.
Palestinians suspect officials
The move marks the first time a Palestinian will lodge a complaint at the ICC against another Palestinian, according to the family’s lawyer. Banat’s death sparked rare protests in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, with demonstrators shouting “Justice for Nizar” and pressing Abbas to quit.
A poll last year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 63% of Palestinians believe Banat’s death was “a deliberate measure ordered by the PA political or security leaders”. The activist’s brother said he was killed when he:
challenged Mahmud Abbas and was telling people the truth about the real situation of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas has held office since 2005, and last year cancelled long-delayed elections. The step by the Banat family follows the Al Jazeera broadcaster taking a case to the ICC last week over its slain reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, arguing she was deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces. Abu Akleh was killed in May while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel is not an ICC member, and disputes the court’s jurisdiction. More broadly, the court’s chief prosecutor announced last year that she has opened a full investigation into the situation in the Palestinian territories. The probe will focus on the actions of all parties in the 2014 Gaza war, as well as other incidents such as the killing by Israeli forces of protesters in the coastal Palestinian territory.
Featured image by Unsplash/Ömer Yıldız
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
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