Palestinian Authority official defends killing of ‘rude’ dissident Nizar Banat

Demonstrators hold up images of the late Palestinian activist Nizar Banat during a protest in Hebron-Al-Khalil, in the occupied West Bank, on 13 July 2021 (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 26, 2022

Anonymous official also admits to the use of torture by PA officers during interview with Britain’s Jewish Chronicle.

A top Palestinian Authority (PA) official has defended the murder of political activist Nizar Banat, saying he “deserved to die”, according to a report by a London-based newspaper.

The official, who spoke to The Jewish Chronicle on condition of anonymity, said Banat deserved to be killed because he was “rude” to the men who killed him.

“I believe Banat deserved what happened to him,” said the official, who was described as a “high-ranking figure” in the PA.

“When you listen to his videos you can see he was not stable. He exaggerated his case. He was attacking the whole social system.”

Banat, 43, was killed in June 2021 after dozens of PA security forces stormed his home in Hebron to arrest him. 

The prominent political activist and advocate of free speech was known for his outspoken videos on social media, criticizing the PA for its corruption, as well as its security coordination with the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank.

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.

Last June, 14 security officers who stand accused of killing him were released on bail by a Palestinian court, which cited precautionary reasons due to the spread of Covid-19 infections in jails.

The PA official who spoke to The Jewish Chronicle was quoted as saying: “I know the officers accused of killing him personally.

“They are good ones. I know their wives, their families, everyone.”

He also defended the use of torture by the PA. 

“I say [to British partners], yes we use torture if it’s needed. If I know I will save your kids’ lives if I torture someone, I will torture him,” the official, who works with British officials in training programs, said. 

Torture accusations

Banat’s death was met with widespread outrage and angry protests in the West Bank. It also raised questions about the legitimacy of the PA as a governing body.

Banat’s family described his killing as a politically motivated “assassination” and accused the PA’s courts of being complicit. 

A lengthy trial of those alleged to be responsible for Banat’s death, which has been marred by criticism over court irregularities, has yet to lead to any convictions. 

Amnesty International said in June that the PA had failed to ensure accountability under a judicial process it described as “a farce”.

“When the very organization that employs the suspects is also offering to guarantee the suspects’ cooperation with their trial… This is precisely why a military court can never bring the truth to light,” said Heba Morayef, the group’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also in June accused Palestinian authorities of “systematically mistreating and torturing” Palestinian detainees and urged funding cuts to the PA. 

“In light of this pattern of abuse, other countries should cut assistance to abusive Palestinian security forces, including the PA police who played a central part in recent repression,” it said. 

In 2021, the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights said it had received 252 complaints of torture and ill-treatment and 279 of arbitrary arrest against PA authorities in the West Bank. 

The Palestinian rights group Lawyers for Justice said earlier this week that since June this year, it had documented 117 cases of political arrests in the West Bank.