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Press Release: On World Day Against the Death Penalty, Al Mezan calls on Palestinian duty-bearers to cease death sentences and ultimately abolish the death penalty


10 October 2020 marked the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty. This year’s commemoration focused on the right to effective legal representation for individuals who may face a death sentence. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reaffirms its opposition to the use of the death penalty and joins the calls of the international community to respect the inherent right to life of all human beings and to abolish capital punishment worldwide in accordance with international human rights law.


Article 6(6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) holds that States parties ‘should be on an irrevocable path towards the complete abolition of the death penalty de facto and de jure, in the foreseeable future’. Also, the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR explicitly aims at the abolition of the death penalty. The State of Palestine ratified the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol on 2 April 2014 and 18 March 2019 respectively, thus committing to abolish the use of capital punishment.


While the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not issued any decree authorizing executions as of 2005, since then, several death sentences have been issued by Palestinian courts. For instance, in the Gaza Strip, civil courts still hand down death sentences by referring to Penal Code no. 74 of 1936[1], which provides for a series of criminal acts punishable with death. Similarly, military courts continue to issue death sentences as punishment for a large number of acts based on the Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979[2] and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law no. 7 of 2013, which was adopted by the Legislative Council in the Gaza Strip on 21 August 2013.[3] 


Al Mezan’s documentation shows that in 2020 alone the authorities in the Gaza Strip have pronounced 10 death sentences, the latest on Thursday, 8 October 2020, when the Court of First Instance in Khan Younis sentenced a 57-year-old man to death by hanging for murder only two weeks after the crime’s discovery. This brings the number of death sentences issued in Palestine since 1994 to 239, of which 189 in the Gaza Strip. Among these sentences, 90 have been carried out, including 78 in the Gaza Strip alone.


While condemning all serious crimes and acts of murder, Al Mezan persists in denouncing the use of the death penalty, which is considered ineffective in preventing or discouraging serious crimes and is a form of inhuman punishment.


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. In this regard, Al Mezan recalls that the authorities in Gaza are obligated to uphold Palestine’s obligations under international human rights law arising from the State’s accession to international treaties, especially the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol, and therefore calls on:


  • Domestic legislators to activate the legislative branch, resume legislative activities, and ensure that penalties for serious crimes are consistent with the provisions of international law and the requirements of human dignity.


  • The competent Palestinian authorities to immediately cease issuing death sentences, completely abolish the death penalty, and comprehensively review and revise relevant laws to ensure their compliance with Palestine’s international obligations.


[1] The criminal acts are specified in Articles 17, 49, 50 and 215.

[2] The criminal acts are specified in Articles 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 139, 140, 141, 143, 144, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 152, 153, 161, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 175, 176, 186, 199, 200, 204, 213, 216, 276, 284, 417, 425, 429, and 442.

[3] The criminal acts are specified in Articles 29 and 30.

Tags / #excution #civil rights