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Will Abbas and PA Leaders Face ICC Prosecution for Murder?

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avatar by Yoni Ben Menachem / JNS.org

Opinion

People attend the funeral of Palestinian critic Nizar Banat, who died after being arrested by Palestinians Authority’s security forces, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

JNS.org – 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 PA corruption. The family’s lawyer, 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.

The unusual move of the Banat family against the PA reflects their anger and frustration; the 14 defendants in the case were released from custody and the PA has been trying for a year and a half to delay their trial. In a statement, the Banat family directly accused PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas of responsibility for their son’s death, and announced their determination “to go to the end and bring justice to the gang that murdered Nizar Banat.”

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 pepper sprayed Banat’s relatives, who were sleeping near him, and put guns to their heads.

After Banat was identified, he was hit on the head with an iron bar and beaten with clubs and rifle stocks. He was dragged out of bed, his upper body stripped and his hands handcuffed behind his back. They continued to beat Banat after shackling him, despite the fact that he did not resist arrest, 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.

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Banat was taken to the Security Directorate in Hebron, and 20 minutes later 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 PA’s trial in Ramallah of those accused of the murder opened following heavy pressure exerted on the PA 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.

Right up until the start of the trial, the PA tried to reach a settlement with the family. It offered them a large sum of money and jobs in the PA in exchange for calling off the trial, but all its offers were rejected.

According to Palestinian law, the defendants in theory face sentences ranging from seven years to life, however, the PA is determined to protect them. Therefore, the Banat family appealed to the ICC.

Meanwhile, PA chairman 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 Abbas’s political opponents, and the Palestinian leader will continue to forcefully suppress his critics and opponents—just like the other dictatorial rulers of the Arab world.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israeli radio and television, is a senior Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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