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Excessively Used: Two New Death Sentences in Gaza and PCHR Calls for Prompt Intervention

Ref: 52/2016 

On Monday, 17 October 2016, Gaza Court of First Instance issued 2 death sentences against 2 persons charged with murder. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reiterates its position rejecting the death penalty and condemns the excessive application of this punishment by Gaza judiciary in light of the fragile interrogation techniques.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, Gaza Court of First Instance sentenced to death by hanging both of (S. M. Sh.) (36), from Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip, after being convicted of premeditated murder of (R. Y. Q.); and (H. R. Q.) (36) after being convicted of premeditated murder of (A. M. Sh.)

In 2016, the number of death sentences issued has so far risen to 19 sentences; all of which were in the Gaza Strip. Twelve of them were issued by military courts, while the 7 others were issued by civil courts. Four of those sentences were issued by the High Military Court, upholding previous sentences.

The total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas has risen to 183 sentences since 1994, 30 of which have been issued in the West Bank and 153 in the Gaza Strip.  Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 95 sentences have been issued since 2007.

Since the establishment of the PA, 35 death sentences were applied; 33 of which were in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences applied in the Gaza Strip, 22 were applied since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law, and 3 of which were implemented on 31 May 2016.  Those three were the first death sentences to be implemented without the Palestinian presidential ratification following the formation of the National Unity Government in June 2014. PCHR emphasized that those death sentences were extra-judicial execution and constitute a flagrant violation of the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) since they required the ratification of the Palestinian President for implementation.

PCHR follows up with deep concern the excessive application of this serious and irreversible punishment.  PCHR is also gravely concerned over the continued application of death penalty in the PA controlled areas, and:

  • Calls upon the Palestinian President to sign the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and issue a presidential decree to halt it until the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convenes and abolishes it;
  • Calls upon the PLC, if convened, to review all legislations related to the death penalty, especially the Penal Law No. 74 (1936) which remains in effect in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) that is in effect in the West Bank, and enacting a unified penal code that is in line with the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty; and
  • Points out that the call for abolition of the death penalty does not reflect tolerance for those convicted of serious crimes, but rather a call for utilizing deterrent penalties that maintain our humanity.