Palestine: Stop the attacks on civil society and hold those responsible to account
On 20 October 2021, ESCR-Net sent a collective letter to the Palestinian authorities expressing our profound concern regarding recent crackdowns on civil society including the killing of political activist Nizar Banat and the repression of subsequent protests.
You can read the full letter in this link.
On 24 July 2021, security officers from the Palestinian National Authority arrested and severely beat Nizar Banat at his house. Mr. Banat was declared dead shortly after at a nearby hospital.
Nizar Banat was a vocal critic of the Palestinian National Authority and frequently published videos on social media denouncing corruption and the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by the authorities. He had previously suffered harassment in the form of arrests, death threats and in May 2021 unknown gunmen fired bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at his house, where his wife and children were inside.
In response to the killing of Nizar Banat, Palestinians took to the streets to express their anger in peaceful protests over several days. ESCR-Net member, Al Haq documented violent repression of the protests by Palestinian security forces including beating of protesters and indiscriminate use of tear gas. Female protesters reported sexual harassment at the hands of security forces. Civilian counter protesters also attacked the protesters without interventions from the police. Similarly, journalists and observers were targeted, including colleagues from Al Haq. Several protesters were arrested and made claims of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of security forces.
The killing of Nizar Banat and the repression of protests appear to be part of a wider attempt to silence critical voices and crackdown on civil society.
ESCR-Net are calling on the Palestinian National Authority to:
- Carry out a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into all allegations of excessive use of force against demonstrators by Palestinian National Authority security forces. All those found to be involved, including supervisors, should also be held accountable.
- Carry out an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against detained demonstrators, including sexual harassment of female demonstrators and detainees. All those involved should be held accountable.
- Open a criminal investigation into attacks on protesters by civilian-dressed counter-demonstrators during protests in Ramallah since Thursday, 24 June 2021.
- Ensure the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the State of Palestine and end all forms of violations committed on the basis of the exercise of rights and freedoms.
- Hold accountable all those involved in Nizar Banat’s killing as part of a fair and public trial that meets the right to due process and fair trial guarantees in accordance with international standards.
- Stop all forms of attacks on civil society and government critics. Create an enabling environment for human rights defenders.
- Ensure that the Palestinian people are empowered in the decision-making process and considered a partner. This is necessary to ensure respect for the principles of the rule of law, the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people to political participation and the broader context of the right to self-determination.