On Wednesday, 06 June 2018, the Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas signed instrument of State of Palestine’s accession to 7 international convention and treaties, including the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) commended the accession to the ICCPR Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and emphasized it is a step in the right direction that needs to be upheld with legislative steps to guarantee compliance with the protocol.
In a statement, PCHR said that since its establishment in 1995, the center has opposed the use of death penalty in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and called upon the Palestinian leadership in many occasions and with the issuance of a new death sentence to necessarily abolish it and sign the relevant international protocol.
PCHR at the time based on legal and logical grounds that render the application of death penalty in the Palestinian Authority (PA) a crime in light of absence of investigation techniques and guarantees for a fair trial in order to apply such a dangerous penalty. Moreover, PCHR said it believes that such penalty is inhuman and ineffectual in achieving general deterrence or peace in society.
Since the establishment of the PA, PCHR monitored serious abuses, particularly following the division in the PA, as many death sentences were applied without a fair trial or following up the proper legal proceedings.
Most prominent of those abuses of the use of death penalty in the PA was issuing death sentences by military courts against civilians, establishing the so-called “Field Court” in the Gaza Strip that issued and applied immediately inappellable death sentences, applying death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President in flagrant violation of the Basic Law; absence of fair trial guarantees; and systemic use of torture to obtain confessions.
Since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were issued; 39 of which were in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences applied in the Gaza Strip, 28 were applied since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law. Moreover, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas has risen to 203 sentences since 1994. Thirty of them have been issued in the West Bank and 173 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 115 sentences have been issued since 2007.
PCHR called upon the Palestinian President to promptly and immediately amend the penal laws applicable in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the 1936 Penal Law in force in the Gaza Strip and the 1960 Jordanian Penal Code in force in the West Bank, as each of them proclaims 15 crimes punishable by death penalty. PCHR also reiterated its call for suspending the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code for its unconstitutionality as it stipulates 45 crimes punishable by the death penalty.
PCHR called upon the Palestinian President to issue a decision by law to suspend immediately the death penalty until making the necessary amendments to the above mentioned laws.