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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Will Mahmoud Abbas and PA Leaders Face ICC Prosecution for Murder?

Filed under: Palestinians

Will Mahmoud Abbas and PA Leaders Face ICC Prosecution for Murder?
Nizar Banat (Screenshot/YouTube)

Palestinian human rights activist Nizar Banat was brutally murdered in Hebron by Palestinian Authority security personnel on June 24, 2021, because of his criticism of the corruption in the PA and its leader.

The family’s lawyer, Advocate Hakan Kamoz, recently appealed to Karim Khan, the Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, demanding an investigation into the circumstances of Banat’s murder in order to prosecute all those responsible for his death.

At 3 a.m. on June 24, 14 armed PA security personnel arrived at his relative’s house in the Jebel Johar area of Hebron to detain Banat for questioning. They broke windows in the house with iron bars and then opened the door. Two security personnel sprayed pepper spray on Banat’s relatives who were sleeping near him and threatened them with guns put to their heads.

After Banat was identified, he was hit on the head with an iron bar. Then others beat him with clubs and the butts of their guns. They dragged him from the bed to the floor, stripped his upper body, and handcuffed him with his hands tied behind his back. They continued to beat Nizar Banat, despite being shackled and despite the fact that he did not resist the arrest, according to the orders of the commander of the force, and refused to provide him with medical treatment. They then sprayed him with tear gas and dragged him to one of the vehicles waiting outside. Later, five security personnel returned to the house and confiscated Banat’s computer, camera, and cellphone.

Banat was taken to the Security Directorate in Hebron and after 20 minutes he was taken to the hospital in Hebron where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was the accumulation of injuries from the beatings he received.

The unusual move of the Banat family against the Palestinian Authority reflects their anger and frustration at the conduct of the Palestinian Authority. The 14 defendants accused in the murder were released from custody and the Palestinian Authority has been trying for a year and a half to delay their trial, using deliberate procrastination and postponing the hearings.

In a statement, the Banat family directly accused PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of being responsible for their son’s death, because of his responsibility for the Palestinian security forces. The family announced their determination “to go to the end and bring justice to the gang that murdered Nizar Banat.”

The PA’s trial in Ramallah of those accused of the murder opened following heavy pressure exerted on the Palestinian Authority by the Biden administration, the European Union, human rights organizations, and the Palestinian street, which held a series of demonstrations, mainly in Ramallah and Hebron, against the dictatorial regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

Until the start of the trial, the Palestinian Authority tried to reach a compensation settlement with the family in exchange for canceling the trial. It offered them a large sum of money and jobs in the PA, but all its offers were rejected.

Even after the killing of Nizar Banat, the PA continued to use force and its security forces violently suppressed the demonstrations that called for the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas, the punishment of the murderers, and the establishment of an international commission of inquiry in the case.

According to Palestinian law, the PA defendants face prison sentences ranging from seven years to life. However, this is not going to happen. The Palestinian Authority is determined to protect them. Therefore, the Banat family appealed to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority by opening an investigation into the case.

Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is taking advantage of concerns over the PA’s possible collapse and the consequences of this for regional stability, in order to delay the trial.

The murder of Nizar Banat was intended to send a clear message to all the political opponents of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who will continue to forcefully suppress his critics and opponents, just like the other dictatorial rulers in the Arab world. There is no difference between them.