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Members of international community urge Hamas to stop planned executions in Gaza

May 28, 2016 1:42 P.M. (Updated: May 31, 2016 10:21 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Human rights group Amnesty International, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, and EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah all issued public statements this week condemning the Hamas authorities’ intention to execute some 13 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The statements come amid fears of the imminent executions of alleged convicted murderers -- some reportedly to be held in public -- which were approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the Gaza Strip and confirmed by several senior Hamas officials.

In a public statement on Wednesday immediately following the PLC’s approval of the public executions, Amnesty International admonished the practice of the death penalty, saying: “Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual.”

The group, which is often credited with setting the standard for human rights campaigns around the world, added that “the death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

Amnesty International remained uncertain of the exact number of executions that had been approved, but cited that on May 20, senior Hamas official and PLC member Khalil al-Hayya implied that 13 people convicted of murder, mostly in connection with armed robberies, had exhausted their appeals, and were therefore set to be executed.

Other senior Hamas officials, including the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyeh and head of the Supreme Judicial Council in Gaza Abdel Raouf al-Halabi, have spoken similarly of 13 cases in which the legal and judicial measures were complete and death sentences were “awaiting implementation.”

In a statement published on Facebook on May 26th, Hamas Attorney General Ismail Jaber stated that while the timing of executions had yet to be determined, he hoped that death sentences would be implemented before the month of Ramadan, to begin on June 6.

Under Palestinian law, all death sentences must be ratified by the Palestinian president before they can be carried out. However, since 2010 the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza has carried out executions periodically without receiving approval from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas officials maintain that due to the indefinite postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territory, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to assume most of its functions in the besieged coastal enclave, authority for ratifying death sentences lies with the PLC in Gaza.

The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Thursday also urged Hamas authorities to abide by the laws in place, insisting that “the authorities in Gaza must refrain from carrying out these and any other executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend.”

In a UN Security Council briefing on Wednesday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov broke from his script to address the looming threat of the seemingly hasty executions: “Palestine is one and Gaza and the West Bank are its two integral parts,” he said. “I urge Hamas not to carry out these executions and I call on President Abbas to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty.”
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