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Applying Death Sentences without Presidential Ratification is Extra-Judicial Execution

Ref: 29/2016

On Wednesday, 25 May 2016, the Change and Reform Bloc took a decision to “consider the final death sentences, which were issued according to the fair trial standards and exhausted all challenge mechanisms, as ratified and enforceable”. This step was taken to pave the way for applying a number of death sentences without the Palestinian President’s ratification stipulated in many Palestinian laws, including the 2003 Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) and 2001 Penal Procedure Law.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) emphasizes that applying any death sentence without the Palestinian President’s ratification constitutes extra-judicial execution and the Change and Reform Bloc’s decisions in this regard have no legal grounds.  PCHR also stresses that applying any death sentence in this way will bring the decision makers and those applying it to accountability at the local and international levels, especially in light of Palestine’s accession to the international conventions, including the Intentional Criminal Court (ICC).

In their statements to the media, each of Isma’il Haniyah, Deputy Chief of Hamas Political Office and Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and Isma’il Jaber, Attorney General in the Gaza Strip, pointed out to the concentrated efforts practiced to apply 13 death sentences in the Gaza Strip.  Jaber said that the sentences will be openly applied in public places.

Earlier this week, PCHR sent a letter to Isma’il Haniyah following his latest statements, in which he said that he would hold consultations with the PLC to push for applying the death sentences issued in the Gaza Strip and “approved by the legal and judicial authorities.” PCHR reviewed in the letter the legal and objective arguments to stop those efforts.

PCHR emphasizes that the PBL, mainly Article (109), is unequivocally clear, as the article provides, “A death sentence pronounced by any court may not be implemented unless endorsed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority.” Thus, the PLC itself and any of its parliamentary blocs should neither violate this article nor exceed the President’s powers in a way allowing the Change and Reform Bloc to solely take decisions on behalf of the PLC.

PCHR stresses that the claims about applying death sentences would bring security to the Gaza Strip are false and not even supported by the crime science or reality.  This is further proved by the fact that crime rate are still the same in the Gaza Strip even when the death sentences are applied. Those rate are way higher from those in the West Bank, which has not applied death penalty since 2001, even having twice the population.  In addition, the experiences of other countries, which abolished the death penalty, revealed that no change was noticed regarding the serious crime rate.  Even in the countries applying thousands of death sentences annually, the serious crime rate have not decreased.  According to the scientific research, the crime rate is mainly based on the social, economic and cultural circumstances and an efficient security system not on lenient or severe punishments.

Crime can be confronted through providing the adequate living conditions, eliminating the violence culture, promoting the preventive security systems and by imposing severe punishments. History exposes how cruel was the implementation of executions in the past. However, this has not contributed to improving life or safety or even reduced the crime rate. Nevertheless, realty and history prove that countries that have prosperity, safety and stability are those respecting human beings and their dignity.

PCHR strongly denounces the attempts to violate the law especially the PBL. However, PCHR demands the Change and Reform Bloc to immediately abandon its announcement made on behalf of PLC.

PCHR warns that implementing the death sentences in this manner might contribute to displaying a negative image about the Gaza Strip that Israel attempts to market to justify their crimes against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, PCHR demands the executive authorities in the Gaza Strip to refrain from applying this illegal decision. PCHR highlights that the issuance of such decisions by the Change and Reform Bloc will never protect it against accountability for the commission of extra-judicial executions in the future.

Furthermore, PCHR reminds that its position does not mean PCHR’s leniency towards criminals but is based on the principles of the rule of law and justice. What is crucially needed is to be strict in applying the law and not violate it like criminals did.

PCHR reminds that crimes committed against humans and their freedom and safety do not fall within the Statute of Limitation according to the PBL. Besides, applying death sentences without presidential ratification turns the executer into a criminal and so the criminal becomes a victim. This situation is not accepted by the ultimate justice and PCHR hopes it does not happen.