On Tuesday, 31 May 2016, security services in the Gaza Strip implemented 3 death sentences that were previously issued by the judicial authority in the Gaza Strip without the ratification of the Palestinian President. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns this step and stresses that all the implemented death sentences constitute a flagrant violation of the rule of law, Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) and Penal Procedural Law in a way turning the application of these sentences into extra-judicial execution that requires holding those who ordered and implemented the sentence to account.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Interior today read the following: “The competent authorities implemented today early morning, 31 May 2016, death sentences against 3 persons convicted of heinous murders after all the necessary measures were exhausted.” The statement did not address the constitutional measure relevant to the necessity of the Palestinian President’s ratification over such sentences before implementation.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, on Tuesday dawn, 31 May 2016, the Ministry of Interior and National Security Service in the Gaza Strip implemented death sentences against 3 persons convicted of murders in the Gaza central prison (al-Katiba), west of Gaza City. The 3 convicted were identified as:
- Sh. (43), from Khan Yunis. He was sentenced to death by fire squad because he was a security officer;
- E. (28), from Rafah. He was sentenced to death by hanging; and
- Sh. (38), who was sentenced to death by hanging too.
On Wednesday, 25 May 2016, the Change and Reform Bloc took a decision to “consider the final death sentences, which were issued according to the fair trial standards and exhausted all challenge mechanisms, as ratified and enforceable”. This was already highlighted by PCHR in a press release issued earlier, as such decisions are invalid and have no legal grounds and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) itself has no right to ratify death sentences.
PCHR sent on 23 May 2016 a letter to Isma’il Haniyah, Deputy Chief of Hamas Political Office, following his latest statements, in which he said that he would hold consultations with the PLC to push for applying the death sentences issued in the Gaza Strip and “approved by the legal and judicial authorities.” PCHR reviewed in the letter then the legal and objective arguments to stop those efforts.
PCHR reiterates that the 2003 PBL, mainly Article (109), is unequivocally clear, as the article provides, “A death sentence pronounced by any court may not be implemented unless endorsed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority.” Thus, the PLC itself and any of its parliamentary blocs should never violate this article.
The application of death sentences in view of the internal split and the absence of the minimum guarantees of justice like having an independent juridical authority established according to the law, the victim’s right to defence and not obtaining confessions under torture violate the concept of justice and the rule of law and may lead to injustice that is irreversible.
PCHR is in full solidarity with the victims of murders in the Gaza Strip, however, it highlights that the aim of justice is not revenge but ensuring serenity and the rule of law. This cannot be achieved unless by the strict application of the law and not violating it.
PCHR underscores that all the implemented death sentences are extra-judicial executions. Therefore, PCHR calls upon the government in the Gaza Strip to be a good example in showing respect to the law and human dignity because it is the best way leading to stability and security, which cannot be achieved via violating the law and taking people’s lives.
PCHR calls upon Khaled Meshal, Chief of Hamas Political Office, to immediately intervene to stop the series of extra-judicial executions to be implemented by authorities in the Gaza Strip. PCHR stresses that the application of death sentences in this manner constitutes a violation of domestic and international laws that will bring all the hierarchy of Hamas Movement to accountability because Hamas is governing the Gaza Strip.
PCHR ensures that its position does not mean being lenient with criminals but is based on the principles of the rule of law and justice. What is crucially needed is to be strict in applying the law and not committing more crimes in the name of the law.