Ref: 38/2017

On Thursday, 11 May 2017, the Permanent Military Court in Gaza issued 2 death sentences; one of which by hanging against ‘A. Q. (29), from Rafah City, and the other by fire squad against M. G. (36) from al-Shuja’iyah, east of Gaza, after being convicted of drug supply in violation of law.  This is the second time that a military court issues death sentences against persons accused of drug supply in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) emphasizes that both issued sentences violate all domestic laws and Palestine’s international obligations, including the Penal Code which does not uphold the application of death penalty in this crime.  PCHR further stresses that those sentences violate the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL), which prohibits a military court from considering civil cases. PCHR sheds light on the importance of fighting the drug phenomenon that tears apart the Palestinian society.  Thus, PCHR emphasizes that fighting the crime should not be by committing another one through violating laws and denying the right to fair trial.

On 19 March 2017 and in a serious precedent, The Military Court in Gaza issued two death sentences against two persons convicted of drug supply.

PCHR warns that the Gaza Judiciary is on its way to be militarized through granting significant powers to the military courts in violation of the law and principles of justice and each person’s right to appear before the natural judge. PCHR using power to violate the law is considered a crime of power abuse according to Article 112 of 1936 Penal Law and sets a bad example for the society, encouraging to violate the law and enhancing the culture of undermining it.

PCHR stresses that death penalty does not deter or contribute to preventing drug supply.  However, deterrence will be actually achieved through strengthening security and being proportional to police’s ability of prosecuting criminals in a way that respects law and fairly and effectively guarantees them a fair trial, where they will be punished according to the law.

PCHHR highlights that the military courts does not have the power to consider civil cases and that these courts do not provide the minimum fair trial guarantees, particularly in the interrogation stage, which is the most important one in the trial stages.

PCHR is seriously concerned over the continuous and systemic use of torture during the interrogation period.  Thus, all the sentences issued are doubted as they are based on confessions obtained under torture, violating PBL and intentional law and constituting an international crime.

PCHR recalls the Palestinian Authority’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), particularly Article 6, which provides death penalty should be applied in due process and within a fair trial according to the law.

It should be mentioned that the courts in the Gaza Strip excessively use death penalty as the number of death sentences issued since the beginning of the year has risen to 20 sentences, 12 of which were new sentences while 8 others were to uphold previous sentences. Thus, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority PA controlled areas has risen to 196 sentences since 1994. Thirty of which have been issued in the West Bank and 166 in the Gaza Strip.  Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 108 sentences have been issued since 2007.

Since the establishment of the PA, 38 death sentences were issued; 36 of which were in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences issued in the Gaza Strip, 25 were issued since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law, and 6 of which were implemented after the formation of the National Unity Government in June 2014.  At that time, PCHR condemned applying death sentences without the Palestinian presidential ratification and emphasized that it is extra-judicial execution and constitutes a flagrant violation of the PBL since it requires the ratification of the Palestinian President for implementation.

PCHR emphasizes absences of the minimum fair trial guarantees and potentials necessary for proving crimes in the Gaza Strip, particularly within the military judiciary, before which the accused person does not have the right to hire a lawyer during the interrogation stage.  Thus, PCHR calls upon the competent authorities to reform the judiciary and stop issuing death sentences, particularly in light of these circumstances.

PCHR calls upon the administrative committee running the Gaza Strip to abide by the Palestinian law, not to allow referring civilians or civil cases to the military judiciary, and not to issue penalties that exceed those codified in the law irrespective of the justifications.

PCHR calls upon the Palestinian President to immediately accede the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, closing the doors before the misuse of such dangerous penalty, which is irreversible.