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 Thursday.
Nizar Banat, a well-known Palestinian critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a large social media following, died in Palestinian police custody in Hebron in June 2021. His death sparked mass protests and condemnation furious of the Palestinian Authority by prominent 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 go to the ICC for “a non-politicized investigation and prosecution of the criminals”.
“When my brother was killed, he was becoming a prominent opponent of Mahmoud Abbas (the president of the Palestinian Authority), just by telling the truth about this corrupt and authoritarian regime. The way they killed him and they are trying getting away with it reflects the level of impunity and moral corruption that this regime suffers from,” Banat said.
The Palestinian Authority charged 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.
Amnesty International said it was a violation of human rights standards to hold the investigation and trial before a military court instead of a civilian court. On the one-year 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 “smoke screen to protect the highest.”
The family’s lawyer, Hakan Camuz, said Thursday that the case is the first time a Palestinian has taken the Palestinian Authority to the ICC.
“The PA has been a State Party to the ICC since 2015. However, it has always been designed as a safeguard against Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has become another oppressor for the Palestinian people, as much as Israel,” Camuz said in a statement. “Nizar Banat was killed because he shed light on the corruption and violence of this regime. We are looking for justice for him, for his family but also for the entire people of Palestine.”
CNN has asked the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority to comment on the case. CNN has also asked the ICC Prosecutor’s Office to confirm that it has received the file.