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Higher Military Court in Gaza Issues Death Sentence: PCHR Calls Upon President not to Ratify Sentence and Demands the Abolishment of Death Penalty from Palestinian Law

 Ref: 114/2009 

On Tuesday, 3 November 2009, the Higher Military Court in Gaza sentenced Mohammed Ibrahim Isma’il “al-Sab’a”, 36, from Rafah, to death by hanging after convicting him of treason and participation in deliberate murder, under the indictments presented against him and in accordance with Article 91 b of the Code of Military Justice # 4 of 2008.


On 19 July 2009, the Permanent Military Court sentenced Isma’il “al-Sab’a” to life imprisonment with hard work after convicting him of collaboration with hostile parties and deliberate murder. The Military Advocate General appealed against the sentence of the Permanent Military Court and the Higher Military Court in Gaza was convened on an exceptional basis to review the sentence.


The number of death sentences issued by Palestinian courts during 2009 now stands at 16 sentences, including two sentences issued in the West Bank and ten in the Gaza Strip.


The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) notes that the 1979 Palestinian Penal Law is the Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  It is unconstitutional within the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) as it has not been presented to, nor approved by, the legislature.  PCHR has repeatedly called for its abolition as it violates international fair trial standards and does not include fair and independent mechanisms of appeal.


PCHR is extremely concerned over the continued application of the death penalty in the PNA controlled areas, and therefore:


1.            Calls upon the PNA to announce an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, which violates international human rights standards and instruments, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Additional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the UN Convention against Torture (1984).

2.            Calls upon Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas not to ratify these cruel and inhumane sentences, and to prevent their implementation.

3.            Reiterates that abolishing the death penalty does not imply leniency towards dangerous criminals, who must be subjected to punishment that acts as a deterrent but also maintains human dignity.


4.            Calls upon the PNA to stop applying the Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979 of the Palestine Liberation Organization as it is unconstitutional. 

5.            Calls upon the PNA to review all legislation relative to the death penalty – particularly Law No. 74 (1936) that remains in effect in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) that remains in effect in the West Bank – and to prepare a unified penal code that conforms to the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty.