Geneva – A demand for the immediate cessation of Palestinian Authority abuses against activists, journalists and human rights defenders and provision of protection was raised in an official letter on behalf of eleven co-signing organizations delivered by Euro-Med Monitor to eight UN Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The letter, concerning the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing violent crackdown on dissent, freedom of speech and expression, urged the UN top experts to issue clear public statements on the recent death of Mr. Nizar Banat and the “PA’s widespread and systematic human rights violations, including intimidation, harassment, and arbitrary arrests, particularly targeting human rights defenders, activists, peaceful demonstrators, and journalists, and its general crackdown on human rights and fundamental freedoms with impunity.”
Euro-Med Monitor and the co-signing organizations detailed the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Banat and the history of PA abuses against him that preceded his death, warning that Mr. Banat’s case “falls within a wider and deeply concerning pattern of growing repression targeting human rights defenders, journalists, and activists in Palestine.”
Submitted by Euro-Med Monitor’s Chairman Dr. Ramy Abdu, the letter stressed that the PA’s arbitrary measures against Mr. Banat “had always raised serious concerns about his safety and well-being, prompting us to warn international decision-makers that those PA practices may pose a serious risk to Mr. Banat’s life.”
The letter cast doubt on the seriousness of the PA’s announced investigation into Mr. Banat’s death, noting “we can confidently deduce from several similar precedents that such investigation will solely be a performative gesture aimed at assuaging public anger and rage, buying time, and eventually burying the case. This assessment is further validated by the fact that the PA did not take any serious measures giving practical effect to this investigation announcement, such as suspending the security officers that carried out the arrest and their superior commanders.” The letter further highlighted significant concerns about the PA’s ability to serve justice in this case amid the ongoing deterioration in the Palestinian judiciary and justice system, due to blatant interference from the executive branch.
Others are Still at Risk
Euro-Med Monitor and the co-signing organizations pointed out that Mr. Banat’s death in broad daylight “will further exacerbate the already shrinking spaces for dissent and freedoms of speech and expression in PA-controlled areas of the occupied Palestinian territories as fear of meeting a similar grim fate amongst activists will now dramatically increase.” The letter raised “serious concerns” over the safety and well-being of other prominent Palestinian activists and critics of the PA who in recent months have been subject to similar PA intimidation, arbitrary arrests, defamation, harassment, and silencing.
The letter explained the case of the Hebron-based activist, Mr. Issa Amro, who has been subject to PA intimidation, arbitrary arrests and other abuses for years, due to his criticism of PA policies and for meeting or holding contact with foreign public figures. “Two days before Mr. Banat’s death, the PA arrested and questioned Mr. Amro without presenting clear charges. We believe this is related to Mr. Amro’s meeting with US State Secretary Anthony Blinken in May, after which Mr. Amro became subject to harassment, intimidation and defamation from PA affiliates,” the letter noted. “This indicates that the PA is not only trying to silence its critics from expressing themselves publicly, it also wants to prevent them from meeting or holding contact with foreign public figures.”
Another case brought to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteurs is that of Dr. Isam Abdeen, a well-reputed Jerusalem-based Palestinian human rights defender and university lecturer, who fell victim this March 2021 to PA harassment, defamation, incitement to killing, and smear campaigns that tried to frame him as a “collaborator with Israel” and “a seller of Palestinian lands in Jerusalem to Israel.” The letter noted, “Previously, Dr. Abdeen has seen his Facebook account hacked and blocked in an effort to silence him for his human rights advocacy and campaigning.”
The letter also highlighted the case of a prominent Palestinian journalist, Mr. Alaa Al-Rimawi, who has been subject to “arbitrary arrests, intimidation, and harassment by the PA,” and has recently informed Euro-Med Monitor that he received threats to his life shortly following the death of Mr. Banat.
Similarly, Ms. Naila Khalil, an eminent Palestinian journalist who works for the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper and has produced a number of investigative reports, has also reported to Euro-Med Monitor receiving threats and being targeted with defamation and smears by the PA.
“Other Palestinian journalists and activists such as Ms. Fatima Mashala, Mr. Akil Awawda, Mr. Emad Abu Awad, and Ms. Samar Hammad (a candidate for the Palestinian Legislative Council) have all reported to us being subject to PA-sanctioned threats, intimidation, smears, harassment and other arbitrary and punitive abuses,” Euro-Med Monitor noted.
Dr. Abdu emphasized in the letter that all these abuses are happening despite Palestine’s accession since 2014 to a series of international human rights law treaties without reservations, in addition to the Rome Statute of the ICC.
“With widespread human rights violations increasing in the absence of accountability and effective remedies for the victims, we are sensing a growing state of despair, rage and fear amongst Palestinian activists and civil society organizations, and significant skepticism with respect to the PA’s will to take practical actions to serve justice to Mr. Banat’s family and end such practices and violations,” the letter warned.
“The longer the death of Mr. Banat continues to pass without accountability, the more severe will be the chilling message that activists, journalists and dissenting voices will receive that exercising their most fundamental and basic freedoms might put their lives in critical danger,” Dr. Abdu cautioned, “We believe international justice and accountability for the killing of Nizar Banat would be a crucial countermeasure to deter the continuity of such grave violations.”
The letter demanded that the Special Rapporteurs “directly address these violations with the PA, demand an immediate and clear cessation to them, and call for justice, accountability, and effective remedies for victims, as well as for the provision of necessary protection to human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other persons at risk through guarantees and assurances for their safety and well-being and that of their families.”
- Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor
- Lawyers for justice
- Skyline International for Human Rights
- Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties
- HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
- Solidarity for Human Rights
- Alliance for Freedom and Dignity
- The International Institute for Rights and Development- Geneva (IRD-GE)
- MENA Rights Group
- United towns agency for north south cooperation, Switzerland
- Broad National Movement (BNM) London
The letter addressed to:
- Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
- Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
- Mr. Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence
- Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
- Mr. S. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967
- Ms. Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
- Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
- Prof. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- Working Group on Arbitrary Detention