Khan Younis Court of First Instance Issues Death Sentence, PCHR Calls for Moratorium on Death Penalty in the Gaza Strip
Date: 08 June 2021
Time: 12:30 GMT
On Monday, 7 June 2021, the Court of First Instance of Khan Younis issued an in absentia death sentence by hanging against A.S.M (55), from AL-Qarara in Khan Younis, who was convicted of murdering his brother, B.S.M on 29 December 2001 in a family dispute.
Since the murder, multiple court sessions were held in trial of the defendant who was in police custody, until he managed to escape in 2008. Since then, the court was held in absentia until Monday’s verdict. It is noteworthy that in the event the defendant is arrested again, the trial will have to be held again.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its condemnation of the heinous murder crime, and its full solidarity with the victim’s family and their right to access justice and to an effective remedy. Nonetheless, PCHR insists on its position that the death penalty is not the only mean to achieve justice or deter those who may attempt to commit such crimes; rather, it is an inhumane way that contradicts with Palestine’s international legal obligations under the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
This is the fifth sentence of its kind in 2021 in the Gaza Strip as 4 previous death sentences were issued this year: 3 at courts of first instance and one by the Military Appeals Court. Thus, the total number of death sentences issued by courts of first instance in the Palestinian territory since 1994 reached 240; 30 in the West Bank and 210 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 151 sentences were issued after the 2007 Palestinian political division.
Since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were executed: 39 in the Gaza Strip, and two in the West Bank. Of those executed in the Gaza Strip, 28 were carried out after 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of Palestinian law. In this context, PCHR commends the Palestinian President’s position not to ratify any death sentence since 2005 and stresses the need to refrain from ratifying death sentences in a prelude to abolishing this punishment from the Palestinian legislations.
PCHR reminds the authorities in Gaza of Palestine’s international legal obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obliges Palestine to suspend use of the death penalty as a prelude to its abolishment from Palestinian legislations. Therefore, PCHR calls on the authorities in the Gaza Strip not to use the death penalty and replace it with a life sentence with hard labor.
PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian President to issue a law by decree to suspend the use of legal articles that permit 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.