Observed every 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty seeks to reinforce the global trend towards universal abolition of capital punishment. The day was first organized by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty in 2003. Every day, however, prisoners continue to face execution as punishment in several countries.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) acknowledges that the death penalty breaches the right to life, which is the prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights. In addition to being the ultimate, irrevocable punishment, it has been repeatedly discredited as a deterrent to crime. It does not contribute to a safer society, either.
In 2012, the State of Palestine was accorded non-member observer State status in the United Nations and has since been able to ratify international treaties, and in 2019, it ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
The Optional Protocol commits its members to the abolition of the death penalty within their jurisdictions as enshrined in Article 1(2). Accordingly, Palestine undertakes an international commitment to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty including through comprehensive review of all relevant laws in order to ensure compliance with Palestine’s legal obligations and human dignity.
Since Palestine’s accession, however, Al Mezan’s documentation shows that authorities in the Gaza Strip have pronounced 25 death sentences, seven of which in 2021 alone with the latest being on 4 October 2021. This brings the number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian territories since 1994 to a total of 254. Notably, 224 of these sentences were issued in the Gaza Strip, with 85 of them being carried out therein compared to five in the West Bank.
Al Mezan uses to the occasion to urge the competent Palestinian authorities to immediately establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its definitive abolition. Simultaneously, the authorities and stakeholders should take action to rebuild the Palestinian political system and hold general elections that would activate the domestic legislature and enable elected legislators to ensure that all legislations are consistent with the provisions of international law and are conducive to human dignity and progressive development of human rights.
To this end, it is necessary to enact policies targeting social, psychological, and economic risk factors behind serious crimes, and adopt early prevention and rehabilitation programs that aim at the reduction of criminal behavior in the community.