[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Dec 16 16:27:26 CST 2008
Death Sentences Surge in West Bank, Gaza ---- 11 Sentenced to Death in
Palestinian officials should announce an immediate moratorium on the death
penalty and eliminate its use in Palestinian law, Human Rights Watch said
today in letters to Palestinian officials.
In 2008, Palestinian civil and military courts have sentenced 11 people to
death, including a defendant who was a child at the time of the alleged
offense. The last time a Palestinian court sentenced someone to death or
Palestinian authorities carried out an execution was in 2005. Under
Palestinian law, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud
Abbas, must ratify all death sentences prior to implementation.
"It's deeply disturbing that Palestinian courts have resumed issuing death
sentences at a time when the rest of world is moving toward abolishing
capital punishment," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights
Watch's Middle East division. "President Abbas should make clear that he
will commute all of these sentences when they arrive on his desk."
Seven of the 11 death sentences this year were issued by military courts,
in breach of a commitment made by Abbas in June 2005 to refer all death
penalty cases to civilian courts. Palestinian military and state security
courts do not meet international fair trial standards. In 2 of the cases,
before military courts in Jenin and Hebron, the trials lasted just 1 day.
In separate letters to Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in Gaza,
Human Rights Watch expressed particular concern about the case of Sa'id
Jameel Zuhod, who was 17 at the time of his alleged offense.
Zuhod was accused of participating, with three adults, in the rape and
murder of a child in September 2003. On October 29, 2008, the Gaza Court
of Cassation upheld the June 14, 2005 Gaza Court of Appeals death
sentences against Zuhod and three adult co-defendants, Ihab Diab Abu
al-Amrain, Rami Sa'id Juha, and Abdul Fattah Mohammed Sammour. The appeals
court ruling had overturned an April 13, 2004 lower court ruling that had
sentenced Zuhod to life imprisonment rather than the death penalty, in
recognition of his youth.
Were the Palestinian Authority to execute Zuhod, it would join ranks with
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen, the only governments that
have executed juvenile offenders since 2005. Iran is the only government
to have executed a juvenile offender since August 2007.
International human rights law prohibits the death penalty for all crimes
committed by persons under age 18 at the time of the offense. The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) puts
stringent restrictions on when the death penalty can be used in cases
involving adults, and encourages states that still retain the death
penalty to take the necessary steps to abolish it.
Human Rights Watch called on Abbas to commute these sentences, including
those issued in Gaza, when they come to him for ratification. Human Rights
Watch also asked him to renew his commitment to transfer all death penalty
cases heard before military or state security courts to civil courts for
retrial. Human Rights Watch urged Haniya to speak out publicly against the
use of the death penalty by Palestinian courts in Gaza.
The number of offenses for which the death sentence may be imposed under
Palestinian law is extremely broad, and inconsistent with the
international standard that this punishment, if it is used at all, be
restricted to the most grievous crimes. The Palestinian Penal Code allows
an ordinary court in the West Bank to impose the death penalty for 17
separate offenses; in the Gaza Strip, 15 offenses are subject to the death
The Palestinian Authority is not a sovereign state, and therefore cannot
ratify international human rights treaties, but it has committed itself to
respect international human rights law. Hamas authorities in Gaza have
also committed themselves to upholding international human rights in
public statements, as well as in their claim to be the lawful government
of the Palestinian Authority.
Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases as a
cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment and because of the possibility
that individuals wrongly convicted may be executed.
Palestinian civil courts have sentenced four people to death in 2008:
The Gaza court of Cassation sentenced Sa'id Jameel Zuhod, 22, Ihab Diab
Abu al-Amrain, 28, Rami Sa'id Juha; 28, and Abd al-Fattah Muhammad
Sammour, 26, to death on October 29. Palestinian military courts have
sentenced 7 people to death in 2008:
The high military court in Gaza sentenced Yasser Sa'id Zanoun, 41, to
death on January 24, for murdering fellow-policeman Ismail Mashwahi in
June 2007. On July 20, the same court sentenced Iyad Ahmad Sukkar, 35, to
death for what judges termed "hostile activities against Palestinian
revolutionists and military operations of the Palestinian revolution."
The high military court in Jenin sentenced Tha'ir Mahmoud Ramailat, 23, to
death on April 6 for murdering Alaa' Aayesh Mubarak, 20, a fellow member
of the Palestinian police. The same court on July 15 sentenced Wa'el Sa'id
Sa'id, 27, and Imad Muhammad Sa'id Sa'id, 44, to death for "treason and
conspiracy" by acting as informers for Israeli authorities. Imad Muhammad
Sa'id Sa'id was sentenced in absentia.
The high military court in Hebron sentenced Imad Mahmoud Sa'id, 25, to
death on April 26, for "treason and collaboration" by providing
information to Israeli forces "that led to the deaths of 4 Palestinian
The high military court in Bethlehem sentenced Ayman Ahmad 'Awwad
Daghamgha, 24, a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service,
to death by firing squad on November 12, for "treason and collaborating
(source: Human Rights Watch)
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