GENEVA –The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged the de-facto Gaza authorities not to carry out further executions and to abolish the use of the death penalty. During the night of 14-15 April, two prisoners accused of ‘crimes’ associated with the occupation of Palestine by the Government of Israel were executed in Gaza.
“I am deeply concerned by the executions, and the possibility that some others might be carried out soon,” said the High Commissioner. “It is extremely disappointing that Hamas has now returned to the use of the death penalty, despite the fact that no officially-sanctioned death sentences have been carried out in Gaza since 2000.”
The High Commissioner said she was alarmed by unconfirmed reports that several more prisoners may be executed soon. OHCHR has received information that on Wednesday Hamas authorities called the families of a number of individuals sentenced to death, saying that they could make their last visit to their sons. It is believed that the two people who were executed were part of this group of prisoners.
On 24 March, the de-facto authorities in Gaza made public the decision to carry out the execution of several alleged criminals. Four days later, they announced that a process to ratify such death sentences had been initiated, notwithstanding applicable law that requires all such sentences to be ratified by the president of the Palestinian Authority.
“I call on Hamas to reconsider its position and exhibit respect for the international community’s firm rejection of the death penalty, to abolish its use in Gaza, and to fully uphold and promote the right to life,” said Pillay, referring to a widely supported 2007 UN General Assembly resolution, which calls for a worldwide moratorium on executions.
Furthermore, the High Commissioner emphasized that under international human rights law*, the right to life is protected, and the use of the death penalty is restricted to the most serious crimes under extremely limited circumstances.
“One absolute restriction is that the death penalty can only be imposed after observing fair trial guarantees in duly constituted courts, which is practically impossible in current circumstances in Gaza,” said Pillay. “For that reason, I urge Hamas to halt all further planned executions.”
The UN Human Rights chief, who strongly supports the clear global trend toward the abolition of the death penalty, said she welcomed the current draft law under consideration by the Palestinian Authority, which seeks to abolish capital punishment.
(*) See for example article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm
hat tip to Bahaaeldin Sadi of OHCHR