Statement for immediate release
Issued by Human Rights and Democracy Media Center “SHAMS”
On the International Day Against the Death Penalty
“The possible election of the Legislative Council should lead to the humanization of Palestinian legislation.”
“SHAMS” Center views with great concern the continuing de facto government in the Gaza Strip to issue and implement death sentences, as the number of death sentences issued by the Gaza Strip courts reached (8) sentences from the beginning of the year to date, in addition to the support of other rulings. With the inhuman punishment remaining in force at the level of legislation throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and receiving support from different local cultures, in contravention of international agreements and the right to life. Despite the passage of more than two years since the accession of the State of Palestine to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at abolishing the death penalty, nothing on the ground in the context of harmonization or publication happened and official efforts remained below the expectations, which constitutes a systematized violation by the State of Palestine for its international obligations.
“SHAMS” Center welcomes the ongoing positive understandings between Fatah and Hamas, which we hope will lead this time to hold general elections that will renew the legitimacy and restore the Palestinian Parliament, the “Legislative Council”, and move from the theoretical understanding into the behavioral space. Therefore, “SHAMS” Center sees this potential step as an opportunity that the Palestinian parliament, who is likely to be elected, should invest in humanizing Palestinian legislation, by harmonizing national legislation with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol attached to it. And the adoption of a modern Palestinian penal code that adheres to international standards and best practices and the principles of philosophy and criminal justice. The elected parliament is also supposed to review the Revolutionary Penal Code No. (5) of 1979, which alone punishes (45) crimes with the death penalty, making it the most prominent umbrella for death sentences in the Palestinian context despite its incompatibility with political and societal development.
“SHAMS” Center confirms that its firm, principled and decisive stances reject the death penalty, given its flagrant violation of human rights, on top of which is the right to life, and the psychological pain and inhuman and degrading torture experienced by the sentenced to death and his family, and that it is a form of collective punishment that a house and an entire family are executed, not just the perpetrator of the crime, in addition to the fact that most of those sentenced to death are the poor, marginalized, minorities, and people with limited incomes, those who, instead of the state system combating the causes of crime, rehabilitation, integration, and taking care of them, it easily eliminates them by executing them. It is a position that does not contradict the principles of Islamic Sharia law, which limits the acts that are sentenced to death to only (4) sentences compared to (77) crimes for which the legislation in force in Palestine is punishable by death, which reflects a tremendous conflict between the two frameworks. As Islamic law did not open the door wide open to killing in the name of religion and state, but rather emphasized legal determinants and general social justice conditions that must be achieved before imposing sanctions. This made the application of punishment according to Sharia an almost impossible reality, and framed it as a punishment whose aim is closer to intimidation than to implementation.
The celebration of the International Day Against the Death Penalty this year comes under the slogan “The right to legal representation for individuals who may face the death penalty. “SHAMS” Center stresses that the death penalty applied in Palestine does not even reach the minimum level in providing fair trial guarantees, which include the requirement for the president to ratify the rulings according to Article 109 of the Palestinian Basic Law, and military courts in Gaza Strip continue to try civilians before them, and therefore we express our fear that this punishment may one day be used to pounce on political opposition, as happened in many countries.
“SHAMS” Center stresses that the challenge facing all Palestinians is to achieve justice and equality for all citizens and to find means of decent living in a way that dries up the sources of crime and eliminates its causes in its infancy, and that investing in economic, education and ethics systems is a more just and logical option than standing by and watching the environment in which crime grows, letting it grow, then getting rid of those who came from this environment by killing them, after everyone allowed to ignore antecedent struggle through a collective mistake. It is no longer acceptable for a country like Palestine that is passionate about life and struggles for it to retain the death penalty in its structural, legislative, practice and cultural system.
Accordingly, “SHAMS” Center recommends the following:
- Complete the positive step by joining the Optional Protocol aiming to abolish the death penalty, by harmonizing national laws with it and with other international treaties and agreements to which the State of Palestine has acceded. This confirms the eligibility of the State of Palestine to join the international community, with full membership.
- Providing the necessary psychological support and care for the children of those sentenced or those subjected to the death penalty and their families, empowering them economically, and strengthening efforts to integrate them into society in a way that combats the social stigma against them and the desires of their rejection that are inconsistent with the principle of citizenship.
- Work on reforming the judiciary and justice institutions, seeking more guarantees of justice and a fair trial. And the need for Gaza Strip courts to stop issuing death sentences immediately.
- The importance of stirring up ongoing debate and permanent debate about the death penalty at all cultural, societal and religious levels, to allow it to be rethought and to correct the misconception about the delusional relationship between execution and achieving public and private deterrence.
- The need for the Palestinian media to shed light on the death penalty and its compound violations of human rights, in a way that contributes to reaching a public opinion against the death penalty.
- Civilian institutions intensify their efforts to combat the death penalty, by strengthening oversight over justice institutions, foremost among which is the work of the courts, and openness in coordination and partnership with regional and international organizations working against the death penalty.