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Occupied Palestinian Territory: Attacks Against Critics Must Stop, Those Responsible Arrested – UN Experts


GENEVA (6 July 2021) – UN human rights experts* today
expressed serious concerns about a number of attacks by
security forces against critics of the Palestinian
Authority, including the death in custody, reportedly as a
result of beatings, of a well-known commentator and
opposition candidate.

“Nizar Banat’s death in the
occupied West Bank shortly after his nighttime arrest on 24
June by Palestinian Security Forces has all the makings of a
criminal act,” said the experts. “Initial reports
indicate that he was badly beaten with steel batons during
his arrest at home by Palestinian Security Forces. After
being taken away by the security forces, he died several
hours later in their custody.

“His death must be
investigated in a truly impartial and transparent manner and
in compliance with the Minnesota Protocol on the
Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death
. If the
investigation reveals that his death was a homicide, those
responsible must be held fully accountable, regardless of
rank or command and full reparations must be granted to the
family of Mr. Banat. The findings of the investigation,
including the results of the autopsy on Mr. Banat’s body,
must be published in full.”

Mr. Banat was a regular
commentator on Palestinian social media, aiming his sharp
criticisms at a range of figures in Palestinian political
life. He raised issues involving allegations of corruption,
the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the security
relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the
Israeli military and the misuse of public authority. He was
also an opposition candidate in the recently-postponed
Palestinian elections.

The Palestinian Security Forces
have arrested Mr. Banat on a number of occasions. His home
in the village of Dura had been recently shot at by unknown
assailants, and he had received death threats.

“Mr.
Banat’s public criticisms, however harsh, were protected
by the basic human rights of freedom of expression and of
association,” said the experts. “The Palestinian
Authority has ratified the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to hold
opinions without interference and the freedom to express
information and ideas of all kinds.

“The ability for
critics to exercise these freedoms and hold governments and
public authorities to account is a vital means to measure
how much, or how little, public freedoms are enjoyed in the
society.”

Following the death of Mr. Banat,
demonstrations erupted in Ramallah and other West Bank
cities with protesters demanding justice and accountability.
The demonstrations were met with – what appears to be –
unwarranted and excessive force by Palestinian Security
Forces.

“We are extremely concerned with the use of
excessive force by Palestinian Security Forces against
demonstrators, including allegations of attacks carried out
by non-uniformed persons and the targeting of women present
in the demonstrations,” the experts said.

Several
days before Mr. Banat’s death, Palestinian forces arrested
Issa Amro, an internationally respected human rights
defender in Hebron, after he wrote a social media posting
critical of the Palestinian Authority. He was released the
following day. In recent years, Mr. Amro has been regularly
harassed, detained and subject to security charges by both
the Israeli military and the Palestinian
Authority.

“The obligation to respect, protect and
fulfill human rights rest with the competent authority
exercising power. Notwithstanding a harsh occupation by
Israel, Palestinian civil society has every right to demand
that its own political and security leaders live up to their
solemn promises to abide by international human rights
commitments,” the experts
said.

ENDS

*The experts: Mr. Michael
Lynk,
Special
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the
Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.

Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz,
Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions
. Ms. Irene Khan,
Special
Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of
opinion and
expression
.

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