New Death Sentence Issued in Gaza: PCHR Demands Respect for Palestine’s International Obligations to Abolish Death Penalty
Date: 02 November 2020
Time: 12:20 GMT
On Monday morning, 02 November 2020, the First Instance Court in Northern Gaza sentenced S. M. ‘A. (28), from Beit Hanoun, to death by hanging after convicting him of pre-meditated murder and theft of ‘A. M. A. (73) on 10 October 2016.
The Higher Judicial Council in Gaza announced, “We are attentively following and processing pending cases, including the murder cases punishable by death, particularly those that have remained undecided for several years. We are working to limit the period of litigation in a manner that best guarantees the accused’s right to defense and maintains social security and civil peace.”
PCHR reiterates its total support for the families of victims of such heinous murders committed in the occupied Palestinian territory and stresses their right to remedy and justice. In the meantime, PCHR insists on its position that the death penalty is not the only mean to achieve justice or deter those who may attempt to commit such crimes; rather, it is an inhumane way that conflicts with Palestine’s international legal obligations under the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition
of the death penalty.
Thus, PCHR stresses its principled position on the death penalty, keeping in mind that this punishment is not related to a certain religion or ideology, as it is applied by various countries around the world according to the 2019 statistics. It is also noteworthy that this punishment is still legal in the United States, even though several states did abolish it. PCHR also emphasizes that allegations that the death penalty is a forceful deterrent have been falsified in numerous criminology and punishment studies,  and it has been suggested that, at best, the death penalty has same impact as rigorous imprisonment sentences in terms of deterrence.
With this sentence, the total number of death sentences issued in Gaza in 2020 rises to 19: 14 new and 5 upholding previous sentences. Thereby, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas rises to 233 since 1994: 30 in the West Bank and 203 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 145 sentences were issued after the political division in 2007.
PCHR is also concerned over the latest statements by some officials in the Gaza Strip urging for accelerated rulings on murder cases, which threatens to violate the defendant’s rights, as well as, other calls for applying death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President. PCHR believes that these calls are very serious and undermine justice and rule of law.
It is noteworthy that since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were executed: 39 in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences executed in the Gaza Strip, 28 were executed after the 2007 division and without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law. Nonetheless, PCHR commends the Palestinian President’s position not to ratify any death sentence since 2005; PCHR stresses that a complete moratorium should be applied on ratification of death sentences, as a prelude to the abolishment of this punishment through the Palestinian legislature.
PCHR calls upon the authorities in Gaza not to apply the death penalty, and upon officials to disregard calls to excessively use the death penalty and execute it without the Palestinian President’s ratification.
PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian President to issue a law by decree to suspend the use of legal articles related to the death penalty in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, until an elected legislative authority assumes the legislative power and abolishes it from Palestinian legislations.
 National Research Council 2012. Deterrence and the Death Penalty. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13363; Amnesty International, THE DEATH PENALTY AND DETERRENCE, published in 18 May 2017 <https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/death-penalty/death-penalty-facts/the-death-penalty-and-deterrence/>