Ref: 76/2010


On Sunday, 10 October 2010, the Palestinian Center for Human
Rights (PCHR) organized a panel discussion titled "Death Penalty in the OPT"
for the World Day Against the Death Penalty commemorated on 10 October every
year. The panel discussion included two
main sessions. Several academics,
lawyers, judges, journalists, and civil society organizations’ representatives participated.


Mr. Hamdi Shaqqura, Deputy Director of PCHR for Program
Affairs, opened the discussion, pointing out the increasing international
efforts exerted to abolish the death penalty. He also talked about the debate in the Palestinian arena regarding the
legality of the application of the death penalty under the state of
fragmentation, especially in light of  viewpoints
that allow overriding the President’s right to ratify death sentences issued by
Palestinian courts. Mr. Shaqoura
explained PCHR’s position, which is against the death penalty, as it is a form
of torture, is not a deterrent, and is an irreversible penalty that may be applied


The discussion was organized in two sessions to address
two main subjects
: the death
penalty in the Islamic Shari’a; and the death penalty between the
Palestinian law and international human rights standards. The first presentation in the first session
was delivered by Dr. Maher al-Houli, Dean of Shari’a and Law Faculty in
the Islamic University of Gaza, who started his speech by asking all those who
absolutely reject the death penalty to reconsider their statements and
actions. Dr. al-Houli highlighted some Shari’a
texts on violations of freedoms, explaining that the Islamic Shari’a
considers the death penalty as a form of individual and collective remedy. He also addressed the purpose of the death
penalty in the Islamic Shari’a, saying that Islam believes that the public
interest requires purifying the society from criminals and that the death
penalty maintains the deceased’s right and calms their relatives down.


The second presentation was delivered by Dr. Suleiman ‘Odeh,
a lecturer of Islamic Studies at al-Azhar University of Gaza. He explained that saving lives is a characteristic
of the Islamic Shari’a, as it is not thirsty for the application of
penalties and that punishment is a very small branch of Islam that builds the
nation, civilization, and humanitarian relations. Islam abolishes a penalty in case there were
available and clear reasons, emphasizing the necessity to realize that human
life is greatly sacred. Dr. ‘Odeh called
for showing the greatest part of the history of Islamic Shari’a which is
represented in maintaining lives, highlighting that Islamic Shari’a recommended
the application of penalties, but it recommended prevention of suspicions and
being careful enough while applying penalties as well.


The second session started by a presentation delivered by
Dr. Mohammed ‘Abed, the Attorney General in the Gaza Strip. He discussed four main issues: the nature of the
death penalty and states’ positions towards it; the legal status of the death
penalty under the international standards; the legal roots of the death penalty
in the Palestinian law; and the legal explanation of the nature and legality of
the death penalty. Dr. ‘Abed considered that
the death penalty is a form of public deterrence in the society, and that
talking about it is associated with cruel crimes that require such cruel penalty. Death penalty is issued for crimes, which
pose a clear and violent danger to the society. He acknowledged that it is better to make mistakes in amnesties than in the
application of penalties; besides, there are mistakes in the application of penalties,
as the size of mistakes does not mean casting the penalty aside. Dr. ‘Abed said that mistakes can never be
resolved through abolishing the penalty, but through developing a legal system and
finding guarantees to avoid mistakes.


The last presentation was delivered by Dr. Mohammed Abu
Se’da, Dean of Law Faculty in Palestine University. He addressed the point of view supporting the
death penalty and the one against it, showing the evidences brought by each party
to support its point of view. He
additionally explained that making mistakes in the application is the main
point when discussing keeping the death penalty or replacing it by a less cruel
one, as it is irreversible in the case of mistakes. Dr. Abu Se’da said that the death penalty is
an exception in any State’s criminal legislative policy and it can only applied
by following very complicated legal procedures. He pointed out that international conventions do not intervene in domestic
legislations of any State, but they offer model indicators based on statistics
that must be respected. Dr. Abu Se’da
refuted the claim that more executions would result into deterrence and a decline
in the number of crimes, explaining that the United States, which occupies the
first rank among countries applying the death penalty in the world, has not
become more peaceful according to results concluded by American
sociologists. Besides, the American
society has been suffering from high crime rates in spite of the application of
the death penalty.


It should be noted that between the two sessions, there were
many discussions made by participants who raised a number of questions that
were answered by the presenters.