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Capital punishment in Gaza: A continuing and alarming practice

Thursday, 08 March 2012 19:46 - 27 February-5 March - Ref.: 55/2012
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Death.PenaltyOn 29 February, 21-year-old Mohammad Jamil ‘Abdin was sentenced to death for abduction and murder by the High Court in Gaza City. This is the fourth death sentence handed down by the Gazan courts in 2012. A total 38 death sentences have been issued since 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip - 33 by military courts.

The conservative and honour-based value system that permeates Gazan society prevents Al-Haq field researchers from documenting many of these cases. The families of those convicted often refuse to give statements due to the perceived dishonour brought by the crimes in question.

Since 2007, Al-Haq monitored 16 executions illegally carried out in the Gaza Strip. Most have been implemented unlawfully without respecting the required procedures including the necessary Presidential decree, in order to avoid protests and criticism at local and international level. (Al-Haq 2011 Field Report on Death Sentences in the Gaza Strip, available in English and Arabic)

The convictions in these cases usually relate to crimes of murder, abduction, treason or collaborating with a hostile party in accordance with the provisions of the Revolutionary Penal Law of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation of 1979. This law is unconstitutional as it has not been presented to, nor approved by, the Palestinian legislature.

According to the Palestinian Basic Law, death penalties cannot be carried out without the ratification of the President of the Palestinian Authority. Nevertheless, in 2009 a consultative committee of judges and jurists was established and given the responsibility of issuing capital sentences in the Gaza Strip.

With four death sentences already issued since the start of 2012, Al-Haq is gravely concerned about this alarming practice and reiterates its condemnation of the death penalty as a cruel and inhuman act in violation of the right to life.