Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern and condemnation of the implementation of death sentences in Gaza by the authorities. Yesterday, 25 May 2017, the authorities in Gaza executed three men who were convicted of homicide and espionage for the Israeli military by a military court, in trials that did not follow legal procedures per Palestinian law. While Al Mezan fully opposes the death penalty in principle, the way this case was handled by the authorities additionally represents a serious infringement of the right to a fair trial and due process, which rendered the verdicts completely illegitimate.
On 21 May 2017, the Field Court, which was formed by the Military Judicial Commission in Gaza City, issued the death sentences against the three men. The two sentenced to death by hanging were: A.L., 38, from An-Nuseirat refugee camp and H.A., 44, from Gaza City. A third man, A.N., 38, from Gaza City, was sentenced to death by fire squad.
This trial sets a very serious and negative precedent as it serves as the initiation of the so-called ‘Field Military Court’. The rulings of this Court are final and do not provide the option to seek appeal as required by international law. The court was created according to the ‘revolutionary judicial procedures law, of 1979, the ‘revolutionary penal law’, of 1979 and the ‘military judiciary law’, No. 4 of 2008. The trial of the three suspects was concluded in one week. The trial lacked the most basic protections and did not comply with fundamental fair trial principles and standards. Al Mezan highlights the following points:
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the implementation of the death sentences by the authorities in Gaza. Al Mezan expresses deep concern over the violations of Palestinian and international law that were committed during the trial of the three suspects. Article 409 in the Palestinian Judicial Procedure Law No. 3, of 2001, provides that it is prohibited to carry out a death sentence except after the validation of the president. The validation was not granted, nor sought in this case. While individuals who commit crimes or felonies must be put on trial and brought to justice, this must only be done in accordance with the law.
Al Mezan reiterates our full opposition to the death penalty. Capital punishment has been proven not to deter crime, and it is cruel and degrading. Until the death penalty is abolished, Al Mezan asserts that restrictions imposed through Palestinian legislation—which aim at providing basic protections—must be respected at all times. Al Mezan further highlights the fundamental obligation to abide by international instruments that the State of Palestine has ratified, in this case in particular, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Al Mezan calls on the authorities in Gaza to immediately stop the implementation of any death penalties. Al Mezan also calls on the military judiciary bodies to ensure their full respect of Palestinian Basic Law, and ensure that all suspects have a meaningful competence to defend themselves. Military courts must stop processing cases involving civilians, which is strictly the sole jurisdiction of civilian courts. The authorities in Gaza must find solutions to big problems elsewhere, by dealing with the root causes of social problems and crime, including espionage, drug trafficking and homicide.