Palestine: activist Nizar Banat's death in custody 'raises serious alarm'
Investigation into Hebron activist’s death after ‘brutal’ arrest must be impartial
Palestinian security forces were reportedly ‘after him’ over his public criticism
‘Nizar Banat was a known critic of the Palestinian authorities and had received death threats’ - Saleh Higazi
The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank must ensure that the investigation announced into the death of Nizar Banat, an activist from Hebron who died in their custody this morning, is fully independent and impartial, said Amnesty International.
Banat was a prominent activist and outspoken critic of corruption within the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.
At around 3.30am this morning, a joint unit of Palestinian Preventive and Intelligence forces stormed the house where he was staying, beat him and took him away in a military vehicle.
Ammar Banat, Nizar’s cousin, witnessed the arrest. He told Amnesty that a group of approximately 25 security officers detonated the door of the house and broke in. Without showing an arrest warrant, they found the room where Nizar Banat was sleeping and immediately began beating him with batons, including on his head, and pepper-spraying him in the face. They then stripped him down to his underwear and dragged him into a security force vehicle without telling the family where he was being taken.
A statement from the governor of Hebron, Jibreen Al-Barki, said Banat’s health deteriorated while in custody and he was taken to Hebron Government Hospital where he was pronounced dead. According to the family’s lawyer, Shaker Tumeize, there was approximately an hour between Banat’s arrest and his death.
Muhanned Kharajeh, a Palestinian human rights activist, told Amnesty that Banat said to him two days ago that Palestinian General Intelligence were “after him” after he posted videos on social media criticising the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank, including over a proposed Covid-19 vaccine deal with Israel.
Nizar Banat had been arrested by the Palestinian authorities several times before.
Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director, said:
“The fact that Nizar Banat died so soon after his shockingly brutal arrest raises serious alarm.
“The Palestinian authorities must ensure the circumstances of his death - including whether he was tortured in custody - are investigated in an independent, impartial and transparent manner. An independent autopsy must be carried out.
“In recent years, the Palestinian authorities have intensified their crackdown on Palestinian journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters in a bid to crush dissent.
“Nizar Banat was a known critic of the Palestinian authorities and had received death threats relating to his political activism, raising further suspicions over his sudden death.”