[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 31 12:23:19 CST 2005
News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
AI Index: MDE 21/003/2005 30 March 2005
Palestinian Authority (PA): Amnesty International calls on the PA not to
resume executions and to end impunity
Amnesty International is concerned about recent steps taken by the newly
elected President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, to
According to available information up to 30 Palestinians are currently
detained on death row. Most of them were sentenced to death between 1996
and 2004 for murder or rape and others were convicted of collaborating
with Israeli forces to assassinate Palestinians.
Shortly after his election in January 2005, President Abbas submitted the
files of some prisoners on death row to the Grand Mufti, seeking his
advice with a view to ratifying some of the death sentences. The
Presidents ratification is the last step before executions can be carried
out. The Grand Mufti has reportedly advised President Abbas that in his
view some five prisoners convicted of murder and rape should be executed.
Since the execution in June 2002 of two men convicted of rape and murder,
there has been a de facto moratorium on executions by the PA. Amnesty
International considered this a positive development, in line with a
worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty, and is now
concerned at the PAs intention to resume executions.
The moves to resume executions are seemingly intended by the PA to
demonstrate its determination to restore law and order in the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip, where in recent years PA security and law-enforcement
institutions have been largely destroyed or prevented from operating by
These moves are occurring as the PA is seeking to re-establish some degree
of control in parts of the Occupied Territories in the context of the
renewed dialogue/negotiations with Israel and the recent truce between
Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.
Amnesty International has urged President 'Abbas not to ratify any of the
death sentences and to maintain the de facto moratorium on executions. The
organization opposes the death penalty in all cases and considers it as
the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and a
violation of the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
Moreover, the death penalty has never been shown to deter crime more
effectively than other punishments.
Amnesty International is also concerned that some of those sentenced to
death were convicted by the State Security Court or by the Military Court,
where trials were grossly unfair and violated the accuseds internationally
guaranteed rights. Such trials were conducted by military judges, often in
a summary manner, and were at times held in camera. Many of the accused
were denied the right to choose their defence counsel and to appeal to a
higher and independent court.
In view of the irreversible nature of the death penalty, trials in capital
cases must scrupulously observe all the international standards protecting
the right to a fair trial, including the right to be defended by legal
counsel of ones choice and the right to review by a higher tribunal.
The PA has the right and indeed the duty to bring to justice those
responsible for crimes, but it should do so in conformity with
internationally recognized standards and ensure that all defendants have
the right to a fair trial by an independent court.
As the PA seeks to reassert its authority in parts of the Occupied
Territories, it should give priority to reforming the justice and legal
systems and ensuring that they protect and respect the rights to fair
trial for all. Resuming execution will not contribute to these goals.
Amnesty International also calls on the PA to put an end to the impunity
so far afforded to those responsible for certain crimes, including
killings of Palestinian "collaborators" and Israeli civilians as well as
The PA has not investigated deliberate killings by Palestinian armed
groups of both Palestinians and Israeli civilians, and family ("honour")
Those responsible for such crimes have continued to enjoy impunity and
have not been brought to justice despite the fact that their identity was
often known, as they had carried out the killings in public or publicly
claimed responsibility for their acts. In recent years al-Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades groups have claimed responsibility for most of the killings of
Palestinians whom they alleged had collaborated with Israeli forces.
Killings of women by relatives on grounds of family "honour", and other
abuses of women in the family have also frequently gone unpunished.
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(source: Amnesty International)
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