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In Speedy Trial: New Death Sentence Issued in Gaza, Despite Palestine’s International Commitment to Abolish this Punishment

Ref: 103/2020

Date: 08 October 2020

Time: 13:15 GMT

On Thursday, 08 October 2020, Khan Yunis Court of First Instance issued a death sentence by hanging against M. A. (75), from Khan Yunis, after convicting him of killing A. B. on 24 September 2020. The motive of this crime was to steal money.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) renews its condemnation of the heinous crime in which citizen (A.B) was killed, and confirms that it stands by the victim’s family and understands their position, but it expresses its concern over  the issuance of a death sentence within only 14 days and in the first session of the trial.

This raises the suspicion of carrying out a speedy trial, in response to the family pressure, especially that the victim’s family issued a statement on 06 October 2020, calling for the expedited trial. The speedy trials are considered a complete waste of the right to a fair trial, including the right to defense, and obligations which cannot be compromised in the domestic and international law, even in the state of emergency, including the state of war.

Furthermore, PCHR reiterates its rejection for this inhuman punishment and recalls Palestine’s international obligations, as in June 2018 Palestine signed the instrument of accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ Second Optional Protocol, aiming at abolishing and banning execution of death penalty.

PCHR stresses that global and Palestinian studies and experiments confirm that the death penalty is not an effective means to deter crime, and this does not mean to tolerate crimes or deny the authorities’ duty to maintain security and protect citizens’ lives. Consequently, the authorities must replace this inhuman punishment, as most studies around the world have proven that death penalty does not contribute to reducing crimes. This is confirmed by the reality in the Gaza Strip, which often applies the death penalty compared to the West Bank, where no death sentence has been issued since 2015.

This is the 15th  sentence of its kind issued in 2020, including (10) new sentences. Thereby, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas has risen to 229 since 1994; 30 in the West Bank and 198 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 135 sentences were issued since 2007.

Since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were executed, 39 in the Gaza Strip and 2 in the West Bank. Among the sentences applied in the Gaza Strip, 28 were executed since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President and in violation of the law.

In this context, PCHR denounces the calls made by some officials in the Gaza Strip to carry out death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President, under the pretext that the President refuses to ratify the death sentences. PCHR confirms that any death sentence should not be executed without the Palestinian President’s ratification and the application of any death sentence without said presidential ratification is considered an extra-judicial execution and those executing or issuing the sentence should be held accountable. PCHR also commends Palestinian President’s position not to ratify any death sentence since 2005; the Centre stresses that a complete moratorium should be applied on ratification of death sentences, as a prelude to its abolishment through the Palestinian legislature.

PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian President to issue a law by decree to suspend 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.