Gaza Military Court Issues 4 Death Sentences at Once, PCHR Denounces Excessive Use of Death Penalty in Absence of Fair Trial Guarantees
On Wednesday, 13 January 2016, Gaza Military Court sentenced four persons to death by hanging after convicting them of collaboration with the Israeli forces. The first death sentence was issued against A. M. J. (23), from al-Zaitoun. However, the three other death sentences were issued in absentia against H. M. J. (30), M. M. J. (28) and M. H. S. (58).
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned over increasingly applying such irreversible penalties in light of the absence of real guarantees of fair trial, especially in view of the division in the Palestinian judicial system and absence of respect for the Code of Criminal Procedure. Furthermore, PCHR denounces bringing civilians before military courts in clear violation of the Palestinian Law, especially Article (30) of the Basic Law. PCHR reiterates its call 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.
With these four sentences in the beginning of 2016, the number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas has risen to 172 sentences since 1994, of which 30 have been issued in the West Bank and 142 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 84 sentences have been issued since 2007; i.e. since Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip, while the PA issued 32 death sentences since its establishment; of which 30 have been issued in the Gaza Strip and 2 in the West Bank. Among the sentences issued in the Gaza Strip, 19 were issued since 2007 without ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law.
It should be mentioned that the application of death sentences in the Gaza Strip stopped after the formation of the National Unity Government in June 2014. PCHR encourages this step and stresses that the application of death penalty should stop.
PCHR is gravely concerned over the continued application of the death penalty in PA controlled areas, and:
- Calls upon the Attorney General in Gaza to stop bringing civilians before military courts and to present them before their natural judge according to the law;
- Calls upon the Palestinian President to sign the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolitionof the death penalty and issue a presidential decree to halt it until the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convenes and abolishes it.
- Calls upon the Palestinian Legislative Council (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;
- 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
- 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.