The United Nations human rights chief today voiced her alarm and disappointment that Hamas has resumed executions in the Gaza Strip, and called on the de facto authorities to abolish the use of the death penalty.
During the night of 14 to 15 April, two prisoners accused of “crimes” associated with the occupation of Palestine by the Government of Israel were executed in Gaza, according to a news release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“I am deeply concerned by the executions, and the possibility that some others might be carried out soon,” High Commissioner Navi Pillay said.
She added that it is “extremely disappointing” that Hamas – which took over control of Gaza in June 2007 from the Palestinian Authority – has now returned to the use of the death penalty, despite the fact that no officially sanctioned death sentences have been carried out in the area since 2000.
“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 Ms. Pillay, referring to a widely supported 2007 UN General Assembly resolution that calls for a worldwide moratorium on executions.
She also expressed alarm at unconfirmed reports that several more prisoners may soon be executed. 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.
“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 Ms. Pillay. “For that reason, I urge Hamas to halt all further planned executions.”
According to OHCHR, the de facto authorities in Gaza made public on 24 March 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.
Ms. Pillay added that she welcomed the current draft law under consideration by the Palestinian Authority, which seeks to abolish capital punishment.