Ref: 36/2016

On Tuesday, 19 July 2016, Gaza Military Court issued a death sentence against a Palestinian civilian. On the same day, the High Military Court also upheld 2 other sentences; one of them is against a civilian, while the other is against a security officer. All the sentences were issued on grounds of collaboration with the Israeli forces. It should be noted that the two upheld sentences will be implemented following the Palestinian President’s ratification. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reiterates its position rejecting  the death penalty, condemns the excessive application this punishment by Gaza judiciary and stresses that civilians should not appear before military courts.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, Gaza Permanent Military Court sentenced a civilian (M. SH.), 59, from Gaza City, to death by hanging, after being convicted of collaboration with the Israeli forces. Moreover, on the same day, the High Military Court upheld a sentence against another civilian (R. A.), 49, from Khan Yunis, to death by hanging as well, while upheld a second sentence against civilian (N .A.), 38, from Gaza City, to death by firing squad. Both of the aforementioned civilians were accused of collaborating with Israeli forces.

According to PCHR’s documentation, the number of death sentences issued this year has risen to 13 sentences, 12 of which have been issued by Military Courts, while another one has been issued by a Civil Court. Of those sentences, 4 ones were issued by the High Military Court upholding previous sentences. Thus, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority PA controlled areas has risen to 177 sentences since 1994, 30 of which have been issued in the West Bank and 147 in the Gaza Strip.  Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 89 sentences have been issued since 2007.

Since the establishment of the PA, 35 death sentences were issued; 33 of which were in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences issued in the Gaza Strip, 22 were issued since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law, and 3 of which were implemented on 31 May 2016.  These were the first death sentences to be implemented without the Palestinian presidential ratification following the formation of the National Unity Government in June 2014. PCHR emphasized that it is extra-judicial execution and constitutes a flagrant violation of the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) since it requires the ratification of the Palestinian President for implementation.

PCHR follows up with deep concern the excessive application of this serious and irreversible punishment.  PCHR is also gravely concerned over the continued application of death penalty in the PA controlled areas, and:

  1. Calls upon the Attorney general in Gaza city to stop referring civilians before military courts and presenting them before their natural judge according to the law;
  2. Calls upon the Palestinian President to sign the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and issue a presidential decree to halt it until the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convenes and abolishes it;
  3. Calls upon the PLC, if convened, to review all legislations related to the death penalty, especially the Penal Law No. 74 (1936) which remains in effect in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) that is in effect in the West Bank, and enacting a unified penal code that is in line with the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty;
  4. Points out that the call for abolition of the death penalty does not reflect a tolerance for those convicted of serious crimes, but rather a call for utilizing deterrent penalties that maintain our humanity; and
  5. Stresses that ratification of the implementation of death sentences is an absolute power of the Palestinian President according to the Palestinian Basic Law and relevant laws, and no death sentence can be implemented without such ratification.