UN rights chief urges Hamas not to carry out planned prisoner executions in Gaza

Pillay "deeply concerned" after Hamas says executions of people sentenced to death are to take place after Ramadan.

August 14, 2013 17:43
2 minute read.
Hamas forces executes Majdi Mikkawi [file]

Hamas execution [file] 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer .)


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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged Hamas in the Gaza Strip not to carry out planned executions.

In a statement, Pillay expressed deep concern "at the possibility that executions might be carried out over the course of the next weeks in Gaza and urgently appeal to the de facto authorities there not to implement any death sentences."

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The attorney general in Gaza made several announcements during Ramadan that after the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, which have just ended, executions of people sentenced to death would take place.

“I am concerned about the process by which death sentences are imposed by military and civilian courts in the Gaza Strip,” Ms. Pillay said.

“Serious concerns have also been raised about ill-treatment and torture during interrogations of persons later sentenced to death,” she added.

"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,” said Pillay.

“Therefore I repeat my appeal to the de facto authorities in Gaza to implement a moratorium on executions and to fully uphold and promote the right to life,” Ms. Pillay said.


Reacting to statements voicing plans for pubic executions of prisoners in Gaza, British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt also on Wednesday expressed deep concern.

In foreign office press release, Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said: “I am deeply concerned at reports of plans to publicly execute prisoners in Gaza in the coming days.”

“The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We consider that its use undermines human dignity and that there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value,” Burt said.

“The UK calls again for the implementation in Gaza of the moratorium on the death penalty which is present in the West Bank. We hope that this moratorium will lead to the eventual abolition of the death penalty in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Burt concluded.

Human rights group Amnesty International meanwhile also called on Hamas not to carry out planned executions after the Muslim festival of Id al-Fitr.

“This and other recent announcements by Hamas authorities that they will carry out further executions are deeply disturbing,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

According to Amnesty International, several of the “criminals” slated for execution confessed to their crimes under extreme duress.

This suggests a possible breakdown in Hamas’s judicial system.

Luther said, “Hamas should pursue justice by prosecuting people accused of internationally recognizable crimes in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty and ensuring all allegations of torture are investigated.”

However, whether or not the crimes were indeed committed, Luther slammed the concept of public executions, calling them “degrading” and adding that they “compound the cruelty of the death penalty.”

The planned executions would not be the first time Hamas has carried out death sentences publicly. In June, two unidentified men were hanged publicly after being accused of spying for Israel.

Sixteen Palestinians have been executed in Gaza for spying since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

Luther added that Amnesty International was asking Hamas to place a “moratorium on the use of the death penalty and commuting all death sentences.”

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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