PCHR: 20 Years Against Death Penalty; Facts on Death Penalty in Palestine and
"On the World Day against Death Penalty, we stress that our struggle will
continue on all levels to abolish this penalty ... We believe, as everybody
else do, the purpose of this punishment is reform and deterrence. However,
death penalty does not achieve both sides of this purpose.
This was proven with facts and researches made by the countries that apply this
penalty the most ... Justice is meant to bring safety and serenity not
Lawyer Raji Sourani:
Death penalty is considered one of the most controversial issues in the
Palestinian community for its social, religious and security dimensions in the
Palestinian community particularly and Arab countries generally.
PCHR has had an obvious position against death penalty since the very first day
it was established although PCHR has realized such a position will not be
reasonable for a big sector of the community that has been affected by
different misinterpretations of the religious text concerning this penalty or
the common concept of deterrence gained by this penalty, which has not been
proved by facts nor researches.
PCHR has worked throughout over 20 years against death penalty, created a
social controversy against it and dedicated a big part of its efforts towards
stopping this penalty paving the way for its abolishment.
PCHR's position is based on legal, reasonable and moral justifications
explained in this paper below.
The split of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007 frustrated the efforts
aiming at the abolishment of death penalty.
It should be noted that PCHR has practiced huge efforts upholding a penal code
without death penalty. PCHR went far on this track through meetings with
decision makers, making correspondences, awareness-raising campaigns and
debates until a draft of the Palestinian Penal Code was issued excluding death
On the 20th Anniversary of its Establishment, PCHR Launches Documentary Titled
"PCHR: 20 Years of Experience"
Nonetheless, the split happened and not only obstructed all these efforts, but
increased the application of this penalty also. There has a been a significant
rise of this penalty following the Palestinian split, mainly in the Gaza Strip.
Death penalty in the PA is regulated by 3 penal codes. One of them is military
and was issued by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) while the 2
others were civil; 1 of them is applicable in the West Bank and the other is
applicable in the Gaza Strip.
These laws are flawed for the over-imposition of death penalty concerning many
crimes, some of which are political such as "conspiracy to overthrow the
Military courts apply this penalty the most and practice their jurisdiction
even on civilians in some cases, especially concerning collaboration with the
Bringing civilians before military courts is a grave violation of human rights
and the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) that stressed each person's right to be
presented before his/her natural judge.
PCHR has always highlighted its bias for the victims of death penalty.
However, PCHR stressed that its position does not mean to be lenient with
criminals or abandon the requirements of security. All of this does not distort
PCHR's message of justice and righteousness that demands commitment to the
Justice requires that attributing a crime to its doer should be done without
any logical doubts and any slight doubt found should be in favor of the accused
Moreover, the punishment must be commensurate with the crime and must not be
degrading or severe, taking in consideration the punishment is imposed for
reform not revenge.
This interpretation of justice is supported with studies and researches on
which PCHR's position is based, especially concerning the relation between
death penalty and security.
PCHR underscores that its vision regarding death penalty relies on legal,
impartial and moral justifications that do not in any form contradict with the
Islamic Shari'a goals, which glorify life and human dignity.
PCHR believes that the insistence on the application of this punishment, which
is irreversible, although the conditions and requirements for applying it are
not available may put lives of innocents at stake and jeopardize the
community's serenity and security that are the main aims of justice.
Therefore, PCHR emphasizes on the World Day against Death Penalty, 10 October,
that efforts will go on to abolish this inhumane penalty, taking in
consideration the public interest and justice requirements that reject the
killing of an innocent person.
This paper briefly displays facts about death penalty in Palestine and PCHR's
position towards it in eight items. Moreover, it includes recommendations for
decision makers. The 8 items are as follows:
1.Using death penalty before Palestinian courts.
2.Application of death sentences in Palestine.
3.Laws regulating death penalty in Palestine.
4.Number of crimes requiring the application of death penalty in the
5.International obligations on the PA concerning death penalty.
6.Conditions required for the application of death penalty in Palestinian
7.To what extent Palestinian legislations related to death penalty fit the
First: Using Death Penalty by Palestinian Courts
Death penalty is defined as putting a person to death by a sentence issued by a
competent court in due process. The Palestinian laws stipulate death penalty
before Palestinian courts, whereas 10-15 death sentences are issued annually.
The majority of these sentences are issued in the Gaza Strip on grounds of
collaboration with Israeli forces. Following are statistics relevant to using
death penalty before Palestinian courts:
1.Facts on death sentences issued in 2016
--Death sentences that has been issued in 2016 so far are 16. All of them were
issued in the Gaza Strip. Four of the sentences were issued by high courts
upholding previous sentences.
--In 2016, 12 death sentences have been issued by military courts so far.
--In 2016 also, 4 death sentences have been issued by civil courts so far.
2.Facts on death sentences issued since the establishment of the PA in 1994
--Death sentences issued by different courts (civil and military) are 180.
--Number of death sentences issued in the Gaza Strip: 150.
--Number of death sentence issued in the West Bank: 30.
--Number of death sentences issued in the Gaza Strip following the Palestinian
spit in 2007: 91.
--Number of death sentences issued by military courts since the split in Gaza:
Second: Application of Death Sentences in Palestine
The number of death sentences applied in the PA so far are 35. 87 convicted
persons are waiting in the Palestinian prisons for the application of death
sentences. Following are facts relevant to the application of death penalty in
1.The Gaza Strip:
--The majority of death sentences in the Gaza Strip were applied following the
internal split. All of them were applied without the ratification of the
Palestinian President, as the previous government's Council of Ministers in
Gaza approved all the sentences in a clear violation of the law, especially the
2003 PBL. There are 3 sentences that were applied following the formation of
the unity government in 2014.
--Number of sentences applied upon the ratification of the President: 11.
--Number of sentences applied without the ratification of the Palestinian
President in violation of the law, mainly article 109 of the PBL, and all of
them were in the Gaza Strip: 22. 3 of them were applied after the unity
government was formed.
2.The West Bank:
No death sentences have been applied in the West Bank since 2002 and the
Palestinian President has not ratified any death sentence since 2005. In the
West Bank, 2 death sentences have been applied since the establishment of the
Third: Laws Regulating Death Penalty in Palestine
6 laws regulate death penalty in the PA; 3 of which are penal codes that
identify criminalized acts and punishments imposed on them.
The 3 other laws are procedural, as they include certain texts relevant to the
issuance or application of death sentences. Some of these laws are applicable
in the Gaza Strip only while the others are applicable in the West Bank only.
However, there are laws applied in both areas.
Following are these laws and in what areas they are applicable:
--Penal Code no. 74 issued by the British Mandate authorities for 1936.
(Applicable in the Gaza Strip)
--Penal Code no. 16/1960. (Applicable in the West Bank)
--1979 Revolutionary Penal Code. (It was issued by the PLO and is applicable in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip)
--2001 Penal Procedure Law. (Applicable in the West Bank and Gaza Strip)
--1979 Revolutionary Tribunal Law. (Applicable in the West Bank and Gaza
--2008 Military Justice Code. (Applicable in the Gaza Strip)
Fourth: Number of Crimes Requiring the Application of Death Penalty in the
The Palestinian penal codes identified the crimes the require the application
of death penalty. These crimes were many; the majority of which were political.
Following are a demonstration of a number of crimes punishable by death in the
--The civil law (1939 Penal Code applicable in the Gaza Strip and Penal Code
no.16/1960 applicable in the West Bank) provides that 15 crimes are punishable
--The military law (1979 Revolutionary Penal Code) provides that 45 crimes are
punishable by death.
Fifth: PA]s International Obligations relevant to Death Penalty:
In 2014, the State of Palestine acceded to the 1966 International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) without any reservations.
Thus, Palestine became bound by all the ICCPR's terms, including Article 6
which imposed guarantees and obligations on countries to apply this penalty
until it is cancelled. Article 6 stipulates that:
"2- In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death
may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in
force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the
provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out
pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court .... 4. Anyone
sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the
sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be
granted in all cases. 5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes
committed by persons below 18 years of age and shall not be carried out on
pregnant women. 6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to
prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present
Despite PCHR's persistent calls, the State of Palestine has not acceded yet to
the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death
Sixth: Conditions Required for the Application of Death Penalty in Palestinian
The Palestinian laws stipulate a number of procedural and impartial guarantees
to issue or apply a death sentence. These guarantees are proper and meet the
conditions required by the international standards, which impose such
conditions on countries that have not so far abolished death penalty.
These guarantees are flawed for the absence of the rule of law in the
Palestinian society and poor Penal Code.
--The death sentence should be unanimously issued by a competent court.
--The convicted person's crime should be among the crimes punishable by death
penalty according to the Palestinian Penal Code.
--The sentence should be based on certainty not doubts.
--The sentence should be issued after providing the convicted with all the
guarantees of the right to defense as ensured in the law.
--The sentence should be definitive and exhausting all steps of appeal.
--The sentence requires the PA President's ratification to be applied.
--The perpetrator should not be a pregnant woman (if the sentenced woman was
proved to be pregnant, the punishment should be changed into hard labor for
life according to 2001 Penal Procedure Law)
--The convicted should be 18 when committing the criminal act.
--The perpetrator should not be mentally ill.
--Death penalty should not be executed on public holidays.
--The sentenced should be allowed to see his relatives and a clergy man
adopting his religion.
--Neither a public pardon (by the Palestinian Legislative Council) nor a
private one (by the PA President) is issued for the convicted person.
Seventh: To What Extent Palestinian Legislations Related to Death Penalty Fit
the International Standards
The legislations regulating the death penalty in the PA violate the human
rights standards and rule of law as explained below:
--Penal Code no. 74/1936 applicable in the Gaza Strip stipulates death penalty
for 15 crimes; most of which are political. The Code's criminalization items
are open to interpretations so that any act against the Mandate's policies in
Palestine would be liquidated. Moreover, some crimes that are punishable by
death penalty do not fall within the most serious crimes. Thus, the terms of
this Code constitute a clear violation of the intentional standards.
--Penal Code no. 16/1960 applicable in the West Bank violate the international
standards as it stipulates that 15 crimes are punished with death penalty; most
of which are political crimes related to national security and incitement. The
Code's terms are also open to interpretations due to which they can be easily
employed in the liquidation of political opponents.
--The 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code stipulates 45 crimes punishable by death;
most of which are political crimes. The law does not differentiate between the
times of war and peace, particularly treason crimes. Moreover, some crimes
punishable by death are not categorized within the most serious crimes such as
"Offending and inciting against the revolution."
--The 2008 Palestinian Military Justice Code regulates sentences related to the
application of death penalty in Articles (91, 96, 102 and 104), emphasizing
death penalty. It should be mentioned that this law was enacted by the Change
and Reform Bloc, which holds its sessions on behalf of the PLC in the Gaza
Eighth: PCHR's Position
PCHR is basically rejecting death penalty for human reasons par excellence.
However, PCHR's hard work in this field is not only motivated by this position,
it is rather based on the justice requirements.
As mentioned above, there are a number of constitutional and legal guarantees
for the application of death penalty included in the Palestinian laws.
The PA, especially in the Gaza Strip, cannot be committed to these guarantees,
which violates the PA obligations according to article 6 of the ICCPR.
Following is an explanation of PCHR's position towards death penalty and the
basis on which death penalty should be abolished in the PA.
1.PCHR's Position against Death Penalty in General:
PCHR's position against death penalty relies on humane and moral grounds. PCHR
believes that its position does not conflict with the spirit and teachings of
Islam that aims at maintaining the human life. Grounds on which PCHR's position
is based are:
--Death penalty is inhuman and considered as an unjustifiable murder in the
name of justice.
--PCHR believes that death penalty is a form of degrading torture, so it must
--Death penalty is irreversible. Thus, if the sentenced person was later found
out innocent, the remedy is impossible. The judicial history reveals many cases
where convicted persons were later proved innocent after applying death
sentence against them.
--Death penalty has not proved any special deterrent capability. However,
studies related to death penalty application in the USA proved that crime rate
in some states, which use death penalty, has not decreased compared to those
not using death penalty.
--The rule and enforcement of law not death penalty is a real deterrence to the
--Death Penalty dishonors the human dignity for the sake of which human rights
organizations were established, as it is considered the most serious form of
cruel and inhuman treatment.
--Around 141 countries legally or effectively abolished death penalty. Thus,
the world is moving towards the abolition of this inhuman punishment. 2.PCHR's
Position against Death Penalty Particularly in the PA-Controlled Areas:
PCHR opposes the use of death penalty in the PA controlled areas due to lack of
adequate guarantees for the application of such serious and irreversible
punishment. PCHR's position justifications are as follows:
--Lack of necessary potentials in the PA to conduct a thorough investigation
into crimes. Moreover, the absence of an independent forensic department and
lack of a forensic laboratory defeat the possibility of having accurate
results, which is indispensable to reach a conviction based on certainty.
Criminal justice requires that conviction is based on certainty and not doubts.
It is worth noting that confession or in flagrante in itself is not sufficient
for conviction based on certainty. The judicial history around the world has
unveiled that many of those who confessed themselves committing crimes or were
caught in flagrante were later found innocent.
--The serious impacts of the Palestinian split on the judiciary, particularly
the unity of the judiciary and constitutionality of its formation, requires
stopping an irreversible punishment like death.
--Concerns relevant to using this penalty on political grounds, especially in
view of the internal split, which will lead to the absence of serenity and
--The abolishment of death penalty in Palestine does not contradict with the
Palestinian people's beliefs, as the abolishment goes in harmony with the
spirit of the Islamic Shari'a, which imposed tough restrictions on its
application and allowed suspending punishments during hard economic or social
times. Moreover, the Shari'a confirmed that punishments must not be applied in
case of any doubts. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said, "Prevent
punishment in case of doubt", and said also, "Avoid legal punishments upon the
Muslims as much as you are able". In light of the presence of the Israeli
occupation in Palestine and the poor economic, social and cultural conditions
left behind, the negative psychological and social impact on the Palestinian
civilians and the Palestinian split and its negative impact on the judiciary,
stopping the application of death penalty is not only permissible in Islam but
--The legislations applicable in the PA-controlled areas cannot be a penal
reference in Palestine, especially when talking about a punishment that is as
serious as death penalty. One of the laws applicable in the PA-controlled areas
that stipulates death penalty was issued during the British Mandate; it is the
Penal Code 74/1936 applied in Gaza, which is considered an immoral law because
it was issued then to deter any attempts to claim the Palestinian rights. This
negatively affected the provisions of the law that criminalize any act against
the government. On the other hand, the 1974 Revolutionary Penal Code is
unconstitutional because it was issued by a body that is ineligible in the PA.
Moreover, many of its provisions violate the minimum standards of justice. A
number of the 1960 Penal Code provisions applicable in the West Bank were
mainly set to deter any political opposition.
Ninth: PCHR's Recommendation
PCHR calls upon the Palestinian President to sign the Second Optional Protocol
to the ICCPR and to issue a Presidential decision to halt the application of
this penalty until it is abolished by the PLC when convened;
1.Calls upon the PLC, when convened, to consider the Palestinian legislations
and laws relevant to this punishment, mainly the Penal Code no. 74/1936 applied
in the Gaza Strip and the Jordanian Penal Code no. 16/1960 applied in the West
Bank, and to enact a unified penal code that goes in harmony with the
international human rights conventions, including those relevant to death
2.Stresses the Palestinian President's position to not ratify any death
sentence and highlights that ratifying death sentences is an exclusive power of
the President according to the constitution and relevant laws. Moreover, no
death sentence can be applied without the President's ratification.
--Raji Sourani is the Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights
(PCHR) and winner of the Right Livelihood Award known as Alternative Nobel
Prize in 2014.
(source: International Middle East Media Center)
Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif confirmed death sentence of 10
Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif today confirmed death sentence handed
down to 10 terrorists by military courts for their involvement in killing
civilians, polio workers and armed forces personnel.
The 10 condemned terrorists, belonging to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan
(TTP) rebel outfit, were convicted by speedy trial in military courts.
"These terrorists were involved in heinous offences related to terrorism,
including killing of innocent civilians, polio workers, NGO employees, police
officials and armed forces personnel," army said.
Fire-arms and explosives were also recovered from their possession.
The military courts were set up in Pakistan to expedite the trial process for
terror-related offences following the December 2014 Talibans massacre at an
army-run school in Peshawar in which over 150 people, mostly school children,
Following the attack, the government had lifted the moratorium on the death
penalty and the Parliament passed the 21st amendment which established military
courts which was challenged in the Supreme Court.
The top court ruled in favour of setting up of the courts in August last year.
It is not known where the trial was held and when the verdict of conviction
announced, as the military courts work in secrecy due to fear of backlash by
Death row: Be more transparent, Pardons Board, Prisons told
Amnesty International-Malaysia (AI-M) has urged for better transparency from
the Pardons Board and the Prisons Department when it comes to the death
Speaking to FMT, AI-M Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu elaborated
on her recent call for greater transparency in the use of the death penalty.
Shamini said at the moment, when the Pardons Board made a decision, it could go
both ways, with an inmate either receiving clemency or being executed almost
Shamini said this was why better transparency was needed in how the Pardons
Board and Prisons Department operated.
At present, due to a lack of transparency, inmates and families were not given
sufficient notice, with some families being informed only 72 hours before an
execution took place, making this a travesty of human rights.
Shamini said such short notice also meant a smaller window of opportunity for
lawyers to file a last minute appeal or to present new evidence which could
help change an inmate's fate.
Yesterday, Shamini called for greater transparency in the use of the death
sentence after the handing over of birthday cards from Malaysians nationwide to
Shahrul Izani Suparman, a death row inmate.
On Sept 25, 2003, Shahrul was arrested at a roadblock and police found 622g of
cannabis, wrapped in 2 newspapers and placed in separate bags. He was sentenced
to death on Dec 8, 2009.
The birthday cards effort was an initiative by Amnesty International Malaysia
in conjunction with the 14th World Day Against Death Penalty, which falls on
Oct 10 every year.
Shamini also supported a recent call by DAP lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh, who urged
that the Pardons Board impose a time limit on clemency petitions for death row
inmates as it was unfair to keep the condemned prisoners waiting as they
languished on death row after exhausting all legal appeals.
Shamini said without a timeframe, death row inmates and their families were
left in the lurch.
The Bukit Gelugor MP had voiced hope that the Pardons Board in every state
would set a timeframe in deciding whether to approve petitions for clemency.
At present, there is no time limit for the board to dispose of such petitions.
The most recent execution in the country was that of former aircraft cabin
cleaner Ahmad Najib Aris, who was hanged on Sept 23 for the murder of IT
analyst Canny Ong Lay Kian in 2003 at Jalan Klang Lama, Petaling Jaya.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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