Skip to main content

Nizar Banat: Family of slain activist takes Palestinian Authority to ICC

Brother of outspoken campaigner killed in custody last year launches landmark referral against the PA
Demonstrators hold up images of murdered Palestinian activist Nizar Banat during a protest in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on 13 July 2021 (AFP)
Demonstrators hold up images of murdered Palestinian activist Nizar Banat during a protest in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on 13 July 2021 (AFP)

The family of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in Palestinian Authority custody, has brought his case to the International Criminal Court, his brother said on Thursday. 

Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, died in custody in June 2021 shortly after dozens of security officers stormed his home in Hebron to arrest him. 

A post-mortem examination found he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs, and hands, with less than an hour passing between his arrest and his death.

A lengthy trial of those alleged to be responsible for Banat's death was marred by criticism over court irregularities, and did not involve any senior officials. 

'For those of us who live in corrupt countries where genuine justice is out of reach, the ICC remains our hope'

- Ghassan Banat, Nizar’s brother

His family said that it had lost confidence in the independence of the Palestinian judiciary, and was now calling for ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan to launch an investigation. 

“For those of us who live in corrupt countries where genuine justice is out of reach, the ICC remains our hope for an unpoliticised investigation and prosecution of criminals,” Nizar’s brother Ghassan Banat said on Thursday, outside the ICC headquarters in the Hague. 

“When my brother was assassinated, he was becoming a prominent opponent to [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas, just by saying the truth about this corrupt and authoritarian regime.

“The way they killed him and are trying to get away with it reflects the level of impunity and of moral corruption that plague this regime.”

The case is being brought forward by UK-based international law firm Stoke White. 

First ICC case against PA 

Banat was known for his outspoken videos on social media accusing the PA of corruption and criticising its security coordination with the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank.

His death was met with widespread outrage and angry protests in the West Bank, and increased scrutiny of the Palestinian Authority as a governing body.

At the time of his death, PA Justice Minister Muhammad Shalalda, who headed a committee investigating the killing, said Banat had been subject to physical violence and that his death was "unnatural".

Nizar Banat: Family of murdered dissident finds no justice in 'complicit' PA judiciary
Read More »

Thursday’s referral marks the first time a war crime or torture case has been brought to the ICC against the PA. 

Fourteen Palestinian officers were charged with his death, in a trial described by the family as “farcical”. All of the officers were released on bail in June as a precaution due to the spread of Covid-19 in jails. 

“The PA has been a state party to the ICC since 2015. Yet, it has always been devised as a protection against the crimes of Israel against Palestinians,” said Hakan Camuz, head of international law at Stoke White. 

“Sadly, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has become another oppressor for the Palestinian people, just as much as Israel. 

"Nizar Banat was killed because he shed the light on this regime’s corruption and violence. We are seeking justice for him, for his family but also for the whole people of Palestine.”

The PA had not commented on the development by the time of publication.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.