On Sunday morning, 4 September 2022, the Palestinian Ministry of Interior carried out the executions of five convicted criminal offenders in Gaza—two by firing squad and three by hanging—blatantly violating both Palestinian and international human rights law.
Under Palestinian law, carrying out executions without the President’s ratification involves a clear violation of constitutional norms. According to Article 109 of the 2003 Amended Palestinian Basic Law, death sentences handed down by any court cannot be carried out unless approved by the President of the National Authority. Additionally, Article 409 of the Palestinian Penal Procedures No. 3 of 2001 states that the sentence of capital punishment may not be executed until it is ratified by the Head of State.
In the case at hand, although each of the five death sentences was issued in past years by Gaza courts, they were never ratified by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. As a result, these five executions have violated due process rights and deprived convicted persons, regardless of their crimes, of the right to a fair trial and appeal.
Also, the general imposition of the death penalty and the carrying out of executions violate the State of Palestine’s obligations under international human rights law that arise from the State’s accession to international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), its Second Optional Protocol, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
During its first review of the State of Palestine’s implementation of CAT, the Committee Against Torture called on Palestine to “take affirmative steps to formalize the moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing the death penalty in law in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” and to “intensify its efforts to commute all death sentences into alternative penalties, ensure that conditions of detention for condemned prisoners do not constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, strengthen legal safeguards and guarantees of due process in all phases of the proceedings and concerning all offenses and take all possible measures to prohibit military courts from exercising jurisdiction over civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
Notably, although President Abbas has never ratified death sentences since taking office, and despite Palestine’s accession to the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Gaza’s judiciary continues to issue death sentences against perpetrators of serious crimes.
Al Mezan reiterates its strongest criticism of the use of the death penalty, which constitutes a form of inhuman punishment contrary to international legal standards, and calls on Palestinian authorities in Gaza to enforce other punishment against perpetrators of serious crimes in line with both Palestine’s international human rights obligations and the safeguards guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law.