On Sunday, 07 February 2016, al-Qassam Brigades declared that they “executed” its own member Mahmoud Rushdi Ishteiwi (35), for what al-Qassam described as “behavioral and moral excesses”. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the death of Ishteiwi and calls upon the Attorney General to investigate it and take all necessary legal measures to ensure justice. PCHR also emphasizes that the official judicial authority is the only one authorized to investigate, convict and order to apply the punishment along with informing the competent authorities.
Al-Qassam published a statement on their official website that reads, “Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades declare that at approximately 16:00 on Sunday, 28 Rabi’ al-Thani 1437 AH corresponding to 07 February 2016, Mahmoud Rushdi Ishteiwi, Member of al-Qassam Brigades, was executed by the Military and Sharia Judiciaries of al-Qassam Brigades for his behavioral and moral excesses that he confessed.”
According to PCHR’s follow-up and testimony obtained on 05 July 2015 from Buthaina Ishteiwi, sister of Mahmoud, al-Qassam Brigades arrested her brother on 21 January 2015 to interrogate him on charges of “collaboration with the Israeli forces, misappropriation of funds and behavioral excesses.” Buthaina and a number of her relatives went out in a protest to find out Mahmoud’s place and offer him the right to a fair trial and proper defense.
PCHR follows up with deep concern and emphasizes that:
- The official judicial and executive authorities are the only bodies authorized to investigate, convict and order the application of any punishment and whatever party does not have the right to take the law into their own hands, otherwise, the aforementioned party itself will be considered outlawed.
- Killing Ishteiwi in such a way constitutes an assault on the rule of law and might institutionalize a serious case of extra-judicial execution and remedy obtained by individuals. It is also a concern that the Gaza Strip would return to the security chaos as this incident is considered a precedent.
- The accused is innocent until proven guilty upon a ruling issued by a competent court in accordance with the law; otherwise charges remain with no legal value regardless of the alleged evidence and confessions.
- Prosecuting collaborators with the Israeli forces is necessary, and the Palestinian armed groups play an important role in such prosecution. However, only official authorities should open investigations and hold the perpetrators to account. Thus, the whole case should have been referred to the competent authorities that would have assumed their responsibilities, maintained the prestige of the official institutions, guaranteed justice and avoided confusion.
- No movement has the right to establish an independent judicial system in parallel to the official one, as it would undermine the official role of the existing authority and create an authority within another. This would also result in the collapse of both the judicial system and official authority.
PCHR condemns the extra-judicial execution of Ishteiwi, and calls upon:
- The Attorney General to bear his responsibilities, investigate the case and take all the necessary measures to ensure justice and maintain the rule of law; and
- All Palestinian factions to respect and be committed to the law to maintain the public interest and the rule of law.