Palestinian rights group critical of Abbas’ support for death penalty

Sunday’s executions approved by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, under intense internal pressure to stamp out rampant crime, appeared to be an attempt to deter criminals and send a message to the public.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has carried out four death sentences this morning in Gaza City.  PCHR is gravely concerned about this development, the first executions since 2002, and reiterates that the death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life.  It is a cruel and inhumane punishment that does not serve to deter crimes.  PCHR calls upon President Abbas again not to convert death sentences and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to repeal legislation related to the death penalty.

In the early hours of this morning, Sunday, 12 June 2005, the PNA carried out death sentences handed down against four prisoners convicted of murder and other crimes between 1995 and 2000.  The executions took place between 04:00 and 05:00 this morning in the police compound (al-Jawazat) and the main security compound (Saraya) in Gaza City without any prior announcement that they were to be carried out.   

1. Mohammed Daoud al-Khawaja, 24, from al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Al-Khawaja was  sentenced to death by the Higher State Security Court on 12 September 2000 after he had been convicted of murdering Mustafa Baroud on 5 September 2000.  He was executed by firing squad in al-Jawazat compound.

2. Wa’el Sha’ban al-Shoubaki, 33, from Gaza.   Al-Shoubaki was sentenced to death by Gaza Central Court on 15 March 1996 after having been convicted of murdering Suhail al-Sayed.  He was hanged in Saraya compound.

3. ’Ouda Mohammed Abu ‘Azab, 27, from Khan Yunis. ‘Azab was sentenced to death by Gaza Central Court on 31 October 1995 after having been convicted of kidnapping and murder.  He was hanged in Saraya compound.

4. Salah Khalil Musallam, 27, from Khan Yunis. Musallam was sentenced to death by a criminal court on 25 January 1996 after having been convicted of murder and robbery.  He was hanged in Saraya compound.

These executions have been the first since 7 August 2002, when the PNA executed Bashir Sameeh ‘Abdul Latif who had been convicted by a military court in Ramallah on 1 August 2002 of murdering Halima and Tamam ‘Abdullah Qutairi. According to PCHR’s documentation, the PNA has carried out nine death sentences since its establishment in 1994 and a further nine prisoners have been killed in other circumstances, included extra-judicially killed by gunmen who attacked prisons and court houses. Palestinian courts have handed down 73 death sentences since 1994.

On 7 February 2005, PCHR sent a letter to the newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas calling upon him not to convert death sentences.  PCHR reiterated its stance in that letter that the death penalty constitutes a blatant violation of the right to life and is a cruel and inhumane punishment. PCHR further noted to President Abbas that there is a global trend towards abolishing the death penalty as it has been proven not to deter crimes in countries which it has been applied.  At that time, PCHR called upon the PLC to immediately repeal death penalty legislation.     

It is significant that the majority of death sentences were issued by the State Security Court which was established by the PNA in 1995.  PCHR has previously and consistently criticised the existence of this court which lacks minimum standards for a fair trial – security officers act as judges, trials are summary and do not allow time for defense cases to be formed and verdicts and sentences delivered are not subject to appeal.      

PCHR is gravely concerned that the implementation of these four sentences could be a prelude to more death sentences being carried out in the near future.  While PCHR emphasises the rule of law, it reiterates its rejection for the death penalty.  The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment which violates the right to life:

PCHR calls upon the PNA and the PLC to formally abolish the death penalty in Palestinian legislation and convert death sentences issued to prison sentences. As the majority of death sentences were issued by the State Security Court, PCHR calls for a review of these sentences by civil courts.

PCHR is concerned about the criteria used to select these four prisoners for execution in favour of other prisoners who have been issued death sentences.  PCHR notes that all those who were executed were convicted of criminal offences and not of collaboration with Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for which a number of persons have been sentenced to death. PCHR rejects the selective implementation of all court rulings and asserts that dozens of decisions issued by Palestinian courts, including the Palestine High Court of Justice, but have not been so far implemented.

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  • Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
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