On Monday, 03 December 2018, the Military Court in Gaza issued 6 death sentences against persons accused of collaboration with the Israeli forces, including a woman, in a precedent never witnessed by the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in terms of the number of new sentences in one day.
In 2018, the number of death sentences has so far risen to 14 sentences; 12 were new sentences and the 2 other sentences were one issued by the Military Court of Appeal upholding a previous sentence, while the other was issued by Court of Cassation. Thus, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas has risen to 215 since 1994; 30 have been issued in the West Bank and 185 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 127 sentences have been issued since 2007.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) stresses its position relevant to the necessity of ending the collaboration phenomenon, prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and protecting society from them. At the same time, PCHR emphasizes its firm and principled position against the death penalty, particularly in light of Palestine’s accession to Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, in last June. PCHR reiterates its rejection of using this penalty, especially in light of absence of fair trial guarantees in the Gaza Strip and necessary potentials to come up with convictions based on certainty, such as trial of civilians before military courts, systematic use of torture and weak investigation means and mechanisms.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Military Court in Gaza issued death sentences by hanging against each of: ‘A. SH. ‘A. (48), from Gaza City; M. A. A. (32), from Khan Younis; A. M. M. (55), from the Arabs living in Israel; M. KH. L. (32), from Rafah; and A. M. ‘A. (42), from Gaza City. All of them are civilians and shall not be tried before the military courts according to the Palestinian Basic Law. The Military Court also issued a death sentence by fire squad against B. M. G. (52), a militant from northern Gaza City, who may be tried before the military judiciary if the crime committed is related to his military work.
PCHR confirms that any death sentence should not be applied without the Palestinian President’s ratification according to Article 109 of the 2003 Palestinian Basic Law, which stipulates that: “A death sentence pronounced by any court may not be implemented unless endorsed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority.” Moreover, Article (409) of the 2001 Criminal Procedural Law codifies the same rule. PCHR also emphasizes that the application of any death sentence without the ratification of the Palestinian President is considered an extra-judicial execution and those executing or issuing the sentence should be held accountable.
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 have been applied since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law.
PCHR points out that trial of civilians before military courts violates the litigation guarantees and the right to litigate before the natural judge according to Article (30) of the Palestinian Basic Law.
PCHR is gravely concerned over the continued application of this inhuman punishment, which is in violation of Palestine’s obligations on the international level. PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian President to comply with Palestine’s international obligations and issue a decision by law to immediately halt this punishment.
PCHR also calls upon the authorities in the Gaza Strip to stop issuing death sentences and stresses that death penalty has no effect deterrent more than other penalties and the crime is committed for social, economic and political reasons, not only for the absence of deterrence.
PCHR calls upon the Attorney General in Gaza to stop trial of civilians before military courts and to refer them before their natural judge according to the law.
PCHR calls upon the executive and judicial bodies and PLC Members in the Gaza Strip to respect the law, particularly the Criminal Procedural Law, and monitor the detention facilities and investigation rooms to ensure the integrity of procedures and non-use of torture.
PCHR further calls upon the executive authorities in the Gaza Strip not to apply any death sentence, particularly in light of the Palestinian President’s not ratifying any death sentence since 2005.