Today, the Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory Mr. James Heenan, and the European Union Representative Mr. Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff mark World Day against the Death Penalty in Palestine and jointly call for the complete abolition of the death penalty in Palestine.
The United Nations Human Rights Office and the European Union have long argued for the abolition of the death penalty. This abhorrent “punishment” is the ultimate denial of human dignity. It has no place in the 21st century. Indeed the vast majority of the Member States of the United Nations — about 170 out of 193 States —with a variety of legal systems, traditions, cultures, and religious backgrounds, have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
The Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory Mr. James Heenan said: “Death is final. There is no room for mistakes. There is a totally unacceptable risk of innocent people being executed. This is exacerbated where, as in Gaza, fair trial guarantees are lacking. Waiting on death row or being executed constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. It may also amount to torture. For those who feel executing people is a deterrent to serious crime, studies show that this is not the case.”
For his part, the European Union Representative Mr. Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff said: “As we mark today the World Day Against Death Penalty, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty (#AbolishDeathPenalty). The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment that violates the right to life. It has been proven that the death penalty does not deter crime more effectively than imprisonment. The EU applauds the Palestinian Authority’s position not to issue any death sentence since 2005. Palestine’s international legal obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights require its authorities to abolish the death penalty from Palestinian legislation”.
The Palestinian Authority has expressed its commitment to abolish the death penalty when it acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in March 2019.
Over the last 12 months, courts in Gaza have handed down 14 death sentences. There are serious concerns that many of these death sentences and others, are handed down in the absence of fair trial guarantees and some follow calls by tribal elders to implement death sentences. One absolute requirement is that the death penalty can only be imposed after a fair trial.
This is currently not possible in Gaza, neither legally nor practically. In the West Bank, although no executions have been carried out since 2006, the death penalty remains in domestic legislation. Despite statements of the Presidency, there is no official moratorium on the abolition of the death penalty.