Palestinian rights groups condemn Gaza executions

Palestinian human rights groups have condemned the execution by authorities in the Gaza Strip of three civilians accused of collaborating with Israel.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Hamas-controlled interior ministry in Gaza hanged the men, aged 55, 42 and 32, on Thursday morning. They have been identified only by initials.

The 55-year-old was from Khan Younis in southern Gaza and had been detained since 2011, according to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. He had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison, but a military court later changed the sentence to death.

The 42-year-old was accused of passing information about Palestinian resistance factions to Israeli occupation forces. He had also been in detention since 2011. The 32-year-old was identified as a resident of Gaza City.

PCHR called the executions “a clear violation” of the Palestinian Basic Law, which requires death sentences to be ratified by the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The current incumbent, Mahmoud Abbas, has not ratified a death sentence in a decade. In total, 38 persons have been executed since the Palestinian Authority was established in the early 1990s, 36 of them in the Gaza Strip, according to PCHR. Twenty-five executions were carried out without ratification from the PA leader.

PCHR has long campaigned against the death penalty as a matter of principle and reiterated following the latest executions that the measure is neither just nor a deterrent.

The group also stated that “torture is systematically used against those convicted of collaboration while being interrogated.”

Al Mezan reaffirmed its condemnation of the death penalty, stating that it is ineffective and “violates the human right to life.”

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These executions can't be justified on legal or security grounds. The prisoners were under the firm control of the Gaza authorities and no longer represented a threat- if they ever had- to public security. Hamas has just published revisions to its charter in an effort to bring the organisation into line with international norms. Carrying out executions of this type indicates a degree of ambivalence in that regard (although many other regimes also continue to execute prisoners). The leadership of Hamas should adopt a more nuanced approach to the phenomenon of turncoats. We have read numerous accounts of how the Israelis coerce Palestinians into becoming informers, and it behooves Hamas or any other ruling body to preserve the lives of these people as a statement of purpose. You don't create a new society by reverting to old methods, as painful as this may be to those who've lost family and friends through acts of treachery. And there's simply no reason to believe that a deterrent effect is produced by these sentences. It's never been the case anywhere else, neither in war nor peace.

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As the international community is leaning more and more toward approval of BDS and the Palestinian cause, these executions hurt that progress. I know clearly of the extent the Israelis will go to blackmail and coerce collaboration of Palestinians into aiding Israel and feel sympathy toward those who are forced into positions they don't want. What these people need is understanding and help by their fellow citizens to combat and thwart the Israelis.

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