Hamas Must Not Carry Out Executions in Gaza

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Hamas Must Not Carry Out Executions in Gaza

LONDON - Amnesty International has urged the Hamas de facto
administration in Gaza not to carry out several pending death sentences,
after high-ranking officials signalled their intention to execute those
convicted of "collaboration" with Israel and "murder".

It is feared that these executions, which would be the first to be
carried out in Gaza since 2005, may be carried out in the next few days.

Since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has not carried out
executions although its military courts have continued to hand down
death sentences after proceedings that failed to meet international
standards for fair trial.

“Hamas must not start carrying out executions. That would be a
profoundly retrograde step and go against the emerging trend towards a
worldwide moratorium on executions,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of
Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. 

“It would be especially abhorrent to execute prisoners who, as in
these cases, were sentenced to death after proceedings which failed to
meet international fair trial standards.”

Hamas has not released information on how many people could face
execution. However, in 2009, a total of 14 people are known to have been
sentenced to death by military courts in Gaza after being convicted on
charges of "collaboration", treason and murder.

On Sunday, the General Prosecution Office in Gaza said that
ratification of outstanding death sentences was not only necessary but
that it was a legal duty.

In a public statement issued on 25th March, Mohammed Abed, Hamas’s
Attorney General in the Gaza Strip, announced that during the previous
two months, the General Prosecution Office had begun the process of
ratifying the death sentences of those convicted of “collaboration” and
murder.

Two days earlier, Fathi Hammad, the Hamas Interior Minister in Gaza,
said in a radio interview that his Ministry had decided to execute
prisoners convicted of “collaboration” despite the objections of local
human rights organizations.

Mohammed Abed has also said the death penalty will be used against
people convicted of dealing drugs - "We have the right to hasten the
execution of those who are willing to kill their own people".

In November 2009, the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza approved a
legal change that would permit the execution of convicted drug dealers.

Under Palestinian Law, death sentences must be ratified by the
Palestinian Authority (PA) President before they can be carried out.

However, as a result of inter-factional tensions between the two main
Palestinian political parties, Fatah and Hamas, since June 2007, the
West Bank has been governed by a PA caretaker government appointed by PA
President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party and Gaza has been ruled by a
Hamas de facto administration led by Isma’il Haniyeh. 

After June 2007, PA President Abbas suspended operations of PA
security forces and judicial institutions in Gaza, creating a legal and
institutional vacuum there.

Hamas responded by creating a parallel law enforcement and judicial
apparatus. These however lack appropriately trained personnel,
accountability mechanisms or safeguards.  In May 2009, Hamas announced
that it was establishing a committee composed of legal advisors and
officials in the Hamas Ministry of Justice who would be responsible for
ratifying death sentences in Gaza.  The General Prosecution Office said
on Sunday that the cabinet had a duty to help ratify death sentences in
order to implement outstanding death penalties.

The last known executions in Gaza were carried out in June and July
2005, prior to the establishment of the Hamas de-facto administration in
Gaza. 

Four men were hanged in Gaza central prison and one was killed by
firing squad in the Police headquarters in Gaza City.  All five had been
convicted of murder in earlier years, some by the State Security Court,
which has since been abolished.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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