In a statement issued today, Sunday, the European Union affirmed that it is closely following developments in the West Bank, and it will not tolerate human rights violations committed against people there.
The statement came in response to the Palestinian Authority’s security forces’ suppression of demonstrators in Ramallah yesterday, and the attack on journalists who were covering the demonstration.
The European Union stressed that the Palestinian authority must protect human rights and guarantee freedom of expression, stressing that the excessive use of force “is unacceptable and must be investigated to hold those responsible to account.”
The statement stated that the European Union expresses its strong dissatisfaction with the “brutal behavior” of the security forces against the Palestinian demonstrators, noting that the United Nations High Commissioner and civil society organizations condemned the brutal violations against journalists and human rights organizations.
The security forces of the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas arrested 14 people in connection with the two demonstrations on Thursday and Saturday, in addition to dozens of injuries as a result of the successive attacks carried out by security forces in uniform and in civilian clothes, knowing that among the injured are female journalists.
The labour minister in the Palestinian Authority resigned Sunday, a member of his party said, as security forces braced for further protests demanding president Mahmoud Abbas step down.
The decision comes after three days of heavy protests against the Palestinian Authority (PA), triggered by the violent arrest and death in custody of an activist.
Nizar Banat, a 43-year-old from Hebron known for social media videos denouncing alleged corruption within the PA, died on Thursday shortly after security forces stormed his house and violently arrested him, his family said.
The left-wing Palestinian People’s Party withdrew from the Fatah-led PA government due to it “its lack of respect for laws and public freedoms”, said party member Issam Abu Bakr.
Nasri Abu Jaish, the labour minister and the People’s Party representative in the government, has therefore resigned, said Abu Bakr.
Calls for Abbas to resign
On Saturday, hundreds took to the streets of Ramallah, the seat of the PA in the occupied West Bank, calling for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to quit.
Protester Ismat Mansour said the death of Banat was just “the tip of the iceberg” while accusing the PA of “a mountain of corruption” and demanding that elections be held.
Others held up placards directed at Abbas’ PA that simply said “leave”.
Security officers in riot gear blocked off streets.
An AFP photographer said protesters hurled rocks at security forces, who responded by launching a barrage of tear gas canisters to break up the crowds.
It was not immediately possible to confirm if there were any injuries following the protests on Saturday.
Banat’s family said the forces used pepper spray on him, beat him badly and dragged him away in a vehicle.
Banat had registered as a candidate in Palestinian parliamentary elections, which had been set for May until Abbas postponed them indefinitely.
Samir Abu Zarzour, the doctor who carried out the autopsy, said injuries on Banat’s body indicated he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death.
Gatherings in Ramallah and Hebron
On Thursday, after news spread of his death, some 300 people gathered in Ramallah, as well as in Banat’s hometown of Hebron.
On Friday, thousands of mourners attended his funeral in Hebron, with crowds there chanting angry slogans against the PA, as well as at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Banat’s death also sparked condemnation from the United States, United Nations and European Union.