Two in Absentia Death Sentences Issued in Gaza within One Week PCHR Concerned Over Escalating Use of Capital Punishment in Gaza and Calls for Moratorium
Date: 08 November 2020
Time: 12:25 GMT
In less than a week, Deir al-Balah Court of First Instance issued two death sentences in absentia, the first was on 08 November 2020, sentencing N. Q. (50) to death by hanging in absentia after he was convicted of murdering M. ‘A. on 14 April 2002, on ground of revenge. Also, the same court sentenced ‘A. ‘A (32) in absentia to death by hanging in absentia on 05 November 2020, for the pre-meditated murder of M. N. using firearm.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) stresses its support for the families of murder victims in the Palestinian occupied territories (oPt) and affirms their right to remedy and justice. However, PCHR confirms its position that the death penalty is not an effective means to achieve justice or deter those who may attempt to commit such crimes; rather, it is an inhumane method that conflicts 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. Consequently, PCHR stresses its principled position on the death penalty, keeping in mind that this punishment is not related to a certain religion or ideology.
The Higher Judicial Council in Gaza announced, again, on its website that, “We are attentively following and processing pending cases, including the murder cases punishable by death, particularly those that have remained undecided for several years. We are working to limit the period of litigation in a manner that best guarantees the accused’s right to defense and maintains social security and civil peace.”
With this sentence, the total number of death sentences issued in Gaza in 2020 rises to 21: 16 new and 5 upholding previous sentences. Thereby, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas rises to 235 since 1994: 30 in the West Bank and 205 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 147 sentences were issued after the 2007political division.
PCHR is also concerned over the latest statements by some officials in the Gaza Strip urging for accelerated rulings on murder cases, which threatens to violate the defendant’s rights, as well as, other calls for applying death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President. PCHR believes that these calls are very serious and undermine justice and rule of law.
It is noteworthy that since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were executed: 39 in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences executed in the Gaza Strip, 28 were executed after the 2007 division and without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law. Nonetheless, PCHR commends the Palestinian President’s position not to ratify any death sentence since 2005; PCHR stresses that a complete moratorium should be applied on ratification of death sentences, as a prelude to the abolishment of this punishment through the Palestinian legislature.
PCHR calls upon the authorities in Gaza not to apply the death penalty, and upon officials to disregard calls for excessive use of the death penalty and for its execution it without the Palestinian President’s ratification.
PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian President to issue a law by decree to suspend the use of legal articles related to 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.