Gaza City, 29 November 2018 – Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has held an expert discussion on Israel’s death penalty bill, which seeks to amend current legislation regulating the use of the death penalty to make it easer for Israel to target Palestinians. Hosted at Al Mezan’s main office in Gaza City, the discussion was joined by lawyers, human rights specialists, and representatives from organizations serving detainees and prisoners. The discussion was organized to explore the risks and consequences posed by Israel’s death penalty bill, which passed preliminary reading in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in January and is now being prepared for final plenary votes in the Knesset. Al Mezan had prepared legal reading of the bill, and it was shared with participants to inform the discussion.
Mr. Issam Younis, Al Mezan’s general director, welcomed the participants and shared updates on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) as well as on Israeli violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights. In his remarks, Mr. Younis highlighted the difficult conditions faced by Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. He stressed the need to use international mechanisms to defend human rights in the oPt, especially with the expanded access to such mechanisms as Palestine has secured its legal status as an Observer State.
Mr. Samir Al-Mana’ama, from Al Mezan’s Legal Aid unit, shared analysis from Al Mezan’s legal reading of the death penalty bill as part of a draft law amending Israel’s Penal Law of 1977. Mr. Al-Mana’ama further discussed the legal framework of the death penalty with reference to Articles 97, 98, and 99 of Israel’s Penal Code in non-murder cases as well as with reference to Military Order No. 378 in cases of murder. Since Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Military Order has been inapplicable.
Mr. Al-Mana’ama stressed the contradiction between the death penalty bill and Israel’s Basic Law adopted in 1994, particularly in reference to principles of dignity and freedom. The bill is also a major deviation from international efforts aimed at eliminating the death penalty. At the broader level, it shows that Israel’s legislation is violating the basic standards of human rights, including the right to fair trial. Local and international parties have shared their recommendations against the adoption of the bill, which nonetheless continues to be advanced.
Participants in the expert discussion emphasized the serious consequences of the bill, should it be signed into law. The participants endorsed the recommendations of Al Mezan’s legal reading and iterated the need to secure national unity and international support in defending human rights and fighting discrimination in the oPt.