Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Death Penalty



The right to life is the most basic and fundamental of all human rights.  It is the foundation upon which all other rights are built upon.  It is inalienable and yet, all too often, violated.  When a State exercises judicial discretion to violate the right to life this process is known as the death penalty.  Although the PNA is not a fully functioning state (owing to the ongoing belligerent Israeli occupation, now in its 39th year) it does maintain some of the trappings of statehood – one of which has been demonstrated by its limited use of lethal force. 


On 12 June 2005, the PNA, following death penalty orders being signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, executed four Palestinian prisoners who had been convicted of murder and other crimes between 1995 and 2000.  These executions were the first since 2000 after former President Arafat had agreed to a moratorium on the death penalty.  According to PCHR's documentation, the PNA has carried out nine death sentences since its establishment in 1994 and a further nine prisoners have been killed in other circumstances.  Palestinian courts have handed down 73 death sentences since 1994.


PCHR is concerned that more Palestinians who are on death row may be subjected to the death penalty. PCHR believes that such a response is an inadequate one to the disintegration of law and order within the areas under the control of the PNA (for more information on required measures to introduce law and order see PCHR’s Position Paper on the 2004 crises in the PNA).  PCHR is also concerned because many of those currently on death row have been convicted using the State Security Courts – a secret court system in operation by the PNA.  Others again, such as collaborators with the Israeli military, may be executed for populist political motives. 


Execution of the law rather then of people is the primary deterrent against committing a crime.  In simple terms this means that if an individual believes that they can commit a crime with impunity then they will be more likely do this.  If on the other hand an effective system of law enforcement exists which would significantly increase the chances of getting caught then individuals are less likely to commit crimes.


This is borne out by the fact that countries with the death penalty often suffer higher rates of crime and that no evidence has, to date, been produced which proves that removing or imposing the death penalty has any effect on levels of disorder/criminal activity.


PCHR condemns the death penalty, irrelevant of the justification provided for imposing it, and holds that the right to life is sacrosanct.


PCHR documents


PCHR Press Release: On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, PCHR  Calls for Making Efforts to Abolish the Death Penalty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (10-October 2006)

PCHR Press Release: Death Penalty Must Stop (28 July 2005)


PCHR Press Release: PNA Carries out Four Death Sentences (12 June 2005)


PCHR Position Paper: Crises in the PNA: Events and the Challenge of Reform. (August 2004)


Amnesty International Press Release: URGENT ACTION: Fear of imminent execution (29 July 2005)


Amnesty International Press Release: Amnesty International calls for halt to death penalty as four executed in Gaza (13 June 2005)


Human Rights Watch

The Council of Europe on the Death Penalty: Death is not Justice (including excellent FAQs)