On Tuesday, 16 December 2008, the Palestinian High Military Court in Gaza headed by Military Judge Mohammed Nofal sentenced Mohammed Ali Hassan Saidam, 34, from Rafah, to death by hanging. The court convicted the defendant of treason, spying and conspiracy in violation of the Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestine Liberation Organization of 1979. The sentence, that had been issued in the presence of the defendant, was unanimously issued by the court. It can be appealed.
It is worth noting that the Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestine Liberation Organization is unconstitutional in the Palestinian Authority (PA), as it has not been presented to nor approved by the legislature. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has repeatedly called for its abolition as it violates international standards of fair trial and does not include fair and independent mechanisms for appealing against court sentences. PCHR reminds that the Penal Code No. 74 for the year 1939 is applied in the Gaza Strip, while the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 for the year 1960 is applied in the West Bank.
Taking this latest sentence into account, a total of nine death sentences have been issued by Palestinian courts since the beginning of 2008. In addition, three death sentences for three men issued in previous years have been supported. Thus, the number of death sentences issued by Palestinian courts (military courts, sate Security court and civil courts) is 83.
PCHR points with grave concerns to the increasing number of death sentences issued this year. According to PCHR documentation, four of the death sentences have been issued in the Gaza Strip and five in the West Bank. Most of these death sentences have been issued by military courts.
On 24 January 2008, the military court in Gaza sentenced Yasser Said Zanoun, 41, to death by firing squad. On 6 April, the military court in Jenin sentenced Thaer Mahmoud Ramailat, 23, to death by firing squad. On 28 April, the Hebron military court sentenced Emad Mahmoud Saed, 25, to death by firing squad. On 15 July, the military court in Jenin sentenced Wael Said Saed, 27, and Mohammed Saed Saed, 44, to death by firing squad. On 20 July, the military court in Gaza sentenced Eyad Ahmed Sukkar, 35, from Gaza City, to death. And on 12 November, 2008, the military court in Bethlehem sentenced Ayman Ahmed Awwad Daghaghma, 24, to death by firing squad.
On 29 October 2008, the Gaza Court of Cassation supported the death sentences by hanging issued by the court of appeal on 14 June 2005 against four Palestinians: Eihab Diab Abu al-Amrain, 28; Rami Said Juha, 28; and Abdul Fattah Mohammed Sammour, 26. The same court changed a sentence against Said Jameel Zuhod, 22, from life imprisonment to the sentence to death by hanging. At the time of committing the crime, Zuhod was 17 years old. Sentencing him to death is a violation of the international human rights instruments. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights issued in 1966 stipulates, in paragraph 5, that: “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age.”
None of these sentences has yet been carried out, as the implementation of death sentences in the PA controlled areas requires the Palestinian President’s ratification according to the Palestinian Basic Law.
PCHR is extremely concerned over the continued application of the death penalty in the PA controlled areas, and therefore:
1. Calls upon the PA to announce an immediate moratorium on the use of this form of punishment, which violates international human rights standards and instruments, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the UN Convention against Torture (1984).
2. Calls upon Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to ratify these cruel and inhumane sentences, and to prevent their implementation.
3. Reiterates that abolishing the death penalty does imply leniency towards dangerous criminals, who must be subjected to punishment that acts as a deterrent, but also maintains human dignity.
4. Calls upon the PA to review all legislation relative to the death penalty, especially Law No. 74 (1936) that remains effective in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) that remains effective in the West Bank, and to enact a unified penal code that conforms to the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty.