Palestinian Authority is responsible for torture and ill-treatment of civilians, UN report says

MEE- Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 2, 2022

In a series of recommendations, the United Nations Committee against Torture says PA should prosecute those responsible and punish them with appropriate penalties.

The Palestinian Authority is responsible for the torture and ill-treatment of civilians, the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) determined, after the completion of hearings investigating the torture. 

According to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the “Committee was seriously concerned about the causalities caused by the excessive use of force, particularly the use of lethal weapons by security forces and unidentified armed elements during demonstrations on the postponement of national elections in April 2021 and about Nizar Banat’s death in custody in June 2021”.

Banat was a prominent Palestinian political activist and an advocate of free speech. He was known for his outspoken videos on social media criticizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its corruption, as well as its security coordination with the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank. 

In June 2021, PA security officers stormed his house, beat him and took him away while he was semi-conscious. He later died in their custody and his death was dubbed an “assassination” by his family, with them accusing the PA security forces of killing him. 

The committee started its investigation on 12 July and concluded it on 29 July, when it released its findings. They urged the PA to conduct prompt and effective investigations into complaints involving public officials and to prosecute and punish them with appropriate penalties. 

Torture as a felony

In the 15-page report, the Committee wrote that it recognizes the ongoing Israeli occupation of the territory and how settlements are “illegal under international law and pose severe challenges for the State party to fully implementing its obligations under the Convention”.

“It recognizes that the… challenges limit the State party’s effective control of its jurisdiction over its own territory and its capacities to effectively prevent and combat torture and ill-treatment,” the report read. “However, it reminds the State party that the Convention is applicable in its entire territory and that the State party should take all possible measures to implement it in all parts of the territory.” 

In a series of recommendations in the recent report, the Committee urged the PA to categorize torture as a felony; ban unlawful and torturous detentions; limit the declaration and duration of a state of emergency to situations in which it is strictly necessary; and take all necessary measures to ensure that all judicial orders to release individuals from detention are promptly implemented.

It was also recommended that the PA take all possible measures to ensure that no one is held in unofficial places of detention on its territory, protect prisoners by ensuring they are held in safe conditions and create a domestic commission to investigate any allegations of torture and ill-treatment. 

On 20 July,  Ziyad M. M. Habalreeh, the minister of interior of the State of Palestine and head of the Palestinian delegation to the UN, said the State of Palestine “abhorred torture and would not allow it to happen”.

“The State party would work hard to implement the Committee’s recommendations,” he said at the time.