At 9:00 am on 22 June the Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip executed Hussein al-Khatib, 43, from Khan Younis and ‘Imad Abu Ghalyoun, 49, from Gaza City. Both men had been charged with spying on behalf of the Israeli Occupying Forces.
Later that day, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement asserting that the decision to execute was made by the military court in Gaza City and that the parties with the relevant legal authority to implement such a decision were present. The statement claimed that all necessary legal procedures were followed in taking the decision, the accused were given the opportunity to defend themselves and all levels of appeal were exhausted.
However, contrary to the claims made by the Ministry of Interior statement, the necessary legal procedures were not followed in reaching the decision to execute Hussein and ‘Imad. Article 109 of the Palestinian Basic Law and articles 408 and 409 of Palestinian Penal Procedures Law number (3) of 2001 all emphasise that the death penalty cannot be carried out without the ratification of the president of the Palestinian National Authority. In Hussein and ‘Imad’s cases, this ratification was not obtained from the president.
Accordingly, Al-Haq would like to emphasise the following points:
- In accordance with Palestinian legislation, no party, other than the president of the Palestinian National Authority, has the authority to ratify death penalties;
- Ratification of death penalties by any party other than the president is a violation of citizens’ right to life and therefore constitutes an act of intentional murder. The affected parties have the right to hold the perpetrators criminally accountable before national courts and to receive just compensation. There is no statute of limitation applicable to complaints of this nature;
- Al-Haq reiterates that the trying of civilians before military courts is prohibited according to Palestinian legislation and international law and consequently all decisions taken by military courts against civilians are null and void. Furthermore, judges sitting in military courts and participating in decisions against civilians can be held legally accountable for such decisions;
- The government in the Gaza Strip should cease all use of the death penalty and should replace it with alternative punishments that act to restrict the liberties of perpetrators of crime, for example, through the passing of prison sentences. To this end, the draft law of the Palestinian Penal Code of 2011 should be implemented, as this does not allow for the death penalty. Such a measure would guarantee an end to abusive use of the death penalty.
Al-Haq is gravely concerned about the continuous use of the death penalty by the current government in the Gaza Strip and calls for this practice to be brought to an end. It should be noted that curtailing capital punishment would not entail creating a climate of impunity for criminals but would simply require the adoption of alternative penalties that would continue to act as effective deterrents. Al-Haq stresses that the implementation of the death penalty is a cruel and inhuman act and should immediately be ceased.