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UN concerned about death of Palestinian activist in Hebron, condemns use of excessive force against demonstrators

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News briefing  

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice   

Geneva, August 31 2021 

In a memorandum sent to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on July 1, 2021, UN experts discussed the death of political activist and candidate for the “Dignity and Freedom” electoral list and well-known critic of the Palestinian Authority, Nizar Banat, who died as a result of the use of excessive force by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. 

Violence during arrest that led to death: 

The experts stated that, on June 24, 2021, a force from the Preventive Security and Intelligence raided the house of Banat in Hebron, and detained him and two of his cousins. Two hours later he was taken to an unknown location and his family was informed that he had died. 

The official narrative and the autopsy results: 

The experts added in their memorandum that the Governor of Hebron said in a statement that Banat was arrested based on an arrest warrant by the Palestinian Public Prosecutor, and that his health condition deteriorated during the arrest, so he was transferred to Hebron Hospital, where his death was announced, adding that the preliminary results of the autopsy confirmed that his death came as a result of unnatural causes. It also showed injuries represented in bruises and abrasions in many areas of the body, including the head, neck, shoulders, chest, back, upper and lower extremities, with binding marks on the wrists, several fractures of the ribs and blood in the lungs. 

Palestinian demonstrations and excessive use of force: 

The experts noted that this incident sparked large-scale demonstrations in the West Bank as people took to the streets to demand justice and accountability, while denouncing the Palestinian security forces’ continued practice of arrest and mistreatment of individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Palestinian security forces used unwarranted and excessive force with protestors, arresting some of them, and confiscating journalists’ phones and cameras.  

The experts pointed out that other critics of the Palestinian Authority are at risk, as Hebron-based human rights defender Issa Amro has also been reported to have been subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrests and other harassment over the past several years. 

The experts expressed grave concern about the death of Banat, allegedly as a result of excessive force by security personnel during his arrest, and expressed their grave concern about the Palestinian authorities’ use of unjustified and excessive force against demonstrators, activists and political opponents. 

The experts also underlined that the climate of impunity for attacks against political opponents and critics seriously threatens the civil and political rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to freedom of expression and association, reducing the space for dissent, and freedom of speech and expression in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

UN demands from the Palestinian Authority: 

At the conclusion of their memorandum, the experts called on the Palestinian Authority to provide information on the steps taken towards opening an investigation into the death of Banat, including information on the nature of the investigation, the investigation members and the timeline. 

The experts also requested information on any temporary measures taken in parallel with the investigation, including the suspension of the work of the security personnel involved in this incident. 

The experts also called on Palestine to state the steps that have been taken to ensure that political dissidents, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters are able to carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment, free from fear, threat of violence, intimidation or harassment of any person.

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