Hamas authorities should rescind a recent announcement that they intend to resume application of the death penalty in Gaza, which has not been carried out there since 2005, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The death penalty, which in Gaza would be carried out by firing squad or hanging, is inherently cruel and inhuman, and the death sentences handed down by Hamas military courts violate fair trial standards, the human rights organization said in a statement.

Most of those facing capital punishment in the Strip are affiliated with Fatah or are people whom Hamas military courts have convicted of collaborating with Israel.

On March 24, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad said the Gaza authorities would implement the death penalty in “the near future” against “agents [of Israel] who have been sentenced to death, regardless of the position of rights groups that reject these kinds of sentences.”

A number of Palestinian human rights organizations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have appealed to the Hamas government to refrain from carrying out death sentences.

The organizations have long been demanding that capital punishment be abolished in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“We are dealing here with convictions in trials that don’t come close to meeting fair trial standards,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Hamas authorities should not take the backward step of starting to impose the death penalty, especially when people facing execution have suffered unfair trials.”

It’s not known how many Palestinians have been sentenced to death by Hamas courts in the Gaza Strip for allegedly serving as informants for Israel.



In the past year, Hamas authorities announced that they have uncovered dozens of “collaborators” in the Strip, some of whom had been directly and indirectly responsible for the killing of Palestinian gunmen and civilians.

Some of the alleged informants were also accused of passing on information to the Palestinian Authority leadership and security forces in the West Bank during Operation Cast Lead more than a year ago.

According to Human Rights Watch, Hamas-run military courts in Gaza sentenced 16 people to death in 2009 and so far this year, including eight convicted of treason.

Nine of the 16 risk imminent execution; the other seven sentences were delivered against defendants in absentia. In addition, a Hamas-run civil court sentenced a 17th man to death last year.

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