Jerusalem24 – A report issued by Al-Istiklal, the National Commission for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law, has found that prosecutions of activists and human rights defenders under the Palestinian Authority have gone up 400% in the year since activist Nizar Banat’s killing.
Banat was killed on 24 June 2021 while in custody of the PA’s Preventive Security Service (PSS) officers. 42-year-old Banat was an outspoken critic of the PA, calling out cases of corruption and human rights abuses in videos that were widely shared amongst Palestinians on social media.
The report, published on 19 July, notes that a significant increase in detentions and prosecutions took place immediately after Banat’s killing, targeting activists, politicians, and journalists, including Jerusalem24’s own Mohammad Hamayel.
Al-Istiklal recommends transferring all open cases of detained activists to civilian courts, rather than the military courts that are currently dealing with them, and to stop “punishing” activists by postponing their hearings.
Jericho’s Magistrate Court, a military court in the West Bank where Palestinian “security” detainees are held, has extended the detention of fourteen detainees over the past week, including lawyers and students. Palestinian group Lawyers for Justice says the charges brought against the detainees are “politically motivated” and “removed from any legal evidence.”
Lawyers for Justice says the continued detentions are contrary to Palestinian Basic Law.
The past few weeks have seen an increase in the number of political or “security” detainees arrested by the PA. Lawyers for Justice reported 63 arrests in June, versus 340 for the totality of 2021.
The UN Committee Against Torture, currently holding its seventy-fourth session in Geneva, is conducting its first-ever review of the PA to assess its efforts in implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The PA signed on to the convention in 2014.
A joint report by Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice, submitted in June to the Committee Against Torture in advance of its review, notes that over one year after the killing of Banat in PA custody, “the Palestinian Authority continues to arrest and torture critics and opponents.”
Al-Istiklal also calls for the prosecution of PSS officers involved in violations against the Palestinian people.
The trial of the 14 PSS suspects involved in the murder of Nizar Banat was postponed earlier this month for the fourteenth time.