Today, 10 October, coincides the World Day against Death Penalty when calls are annually renewed by the countries of the world to work on abolishing this penalty from its legislations, considering it as an inhuman penalty that is incompatible with the values of justice and goals of punishments that aim at rehabilitating the offenders and not wiping them off.
On this occasion, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), reiterates its call for abolishing this penalty from the Palestinian legislation. PCHR more than once has called upon the President to issue a law by decree to suspend the death penalty until the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convenes to amend the Penal Code in order to abolish death penalty.
In June 2018, State of Palestine acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Thus, Palestine now has an international obligation to abolish this penalty, and continuing applying it is considered a grave breach of Palestine’s international obligations. Article 1 of this Protocol provides that: “1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed. 2. Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”
Despite signing the Protocol, the official authorities have not yet taken any measures to give effect to its obligation. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has not yet made any attempts to suspend or abolish the death penalty in the Palestinian legislations.
Since its establishment, PCHR has always rejected the application of death penalty in Palestine and based on legal, objective, and human justifications, outweighing the considerations of justice over the political bickering and desire for retaliation. PCHR believes that the judicature in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip, does not have the expertise and tools need for such a sentence as serious as the death penalty that is irreversible in case the accused person was found not guilty.
Moreover, the investigation and trial proceedings include many violations, such as systematic torture during investigations and bringing civilians before Military Courts, in grave breaches of the international law and standards. Thus, the sentence becomes invalid.
It should be mentioned that in 2018, the number of death sentences issued has so far risen to 7 sentences; all of them were issued in the Gaza Strip. Five of sentences were issued by courts of first instance, while the 2 others; one by the Court of Appeal upholding a previous sentence and the other by Court of Cassation. Thus, the total number of death sentences issued in the PA controlled areas has risen to 207 since 1994, 30 of which have been issued in the West Bank and 177 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 119 sentences have been issued since 2007.
PCHR has noticed a significant increase in the application of the death penalty in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Palestinian division and Hamas takeover on the Gaza Strip, particularly in the last 3 years. In 2017, 19 new death sentences were issued; 16 sentences were issued in 2016; and 12 sentences were issued in 2015.
However, a significant decline in the application of death sentence was recorded in the West Bank courts as during the last 3 years, only 3 death sentences were issued; all of them in 2015. Meanwhile, 2016 and 2017 and even 2018 have not witnessed issuance of any death sentence in the West Bank.
Furthermore, since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were applied, 39 of which were in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences applied in the Gaza Strip, 28 were applied since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law. In addition, in 2017 only, 6 death sentences were applied in the Gaza Strip, which is the highest number of those sentences applied in one year since the takeover of Hamas on the Gaza Strip in 2007. It is noteworthy that 9 death sentences were applied following the formation of the National Unity Government in 2014 while no death sentences has so far been applied during this year.
It should be noted that the Palestinian President has not ratified any death sentence since 2005. The death penalty requires ratification of the President to be applied as codified in Article 109 of the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) which provides that “A death sentence pronounced by any court may not be implemented unless endorsed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority.”
The death sentences in the Gaza Strip were applied upon the ratification of the deposed government there in explicit violation of the law which provides the ratification of the president himself and continued doing so until the formation of the National Unity Government in June 2014. Later, a new way to ratify the death sentences to be executed in the Gaza Strip was renovated as the Change and Reform Bloc which convenes on behalf of the PLC is now granting the ratification. PCHR has repeatedly emphasized that such ratification is invalid and does not give any legal cover for the implementation of the death sentence.
PCHR stresses its complete rejection of applying any death sentence and considers that the implementation of death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President is an extra-judicial execution which demands effective accountability. PCHR also emphasizes that any decision issued by any other authority regardless of its legality or the authority it represents will not ever replace the President’s ratification.
On the World Day against Death Penalty, PCHR stresses the seriousness of using this inhuman punishment and will continue working with the national and international partners to abolish completely this penalty from all legislations in Palestine.
Thus, PCHR reiterates its call upon the Palestinian President to commit to its obligation under the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR to which the State of Palestine has acceded and make immediate amendments to the Penal laws applicable in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; the 1936 Penal Code applicable in the Gaza Strip and 1960 Penal Code applicable in the West Bank. CHR reiterates its call for suspending the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code for its unconstitutionality.
PCHR also calls for ending the application of death sentences in the Gaza Strip and emphasizes that the attempt to replace the ratification of the President with the ratification of the Change and Reform Bloc in the Gaza Strip is legally invalid and has no value.