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United Nations: U.N. Official Urges Stay of Executions in Gaza

(Aug. 23, 2013) On August 14, 2013, Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke out against executions scheduled in the Gaza Strip. The area has been controlled by the organization Hamas since 2007. According to Pillay, there is concern “at the possibility that executions might be carried out over the course of the next weeks in Gaza and [she] urgently appeal[s] to the de facto authorities there not to implement any death sentences.” (Citing Serious Concerns, UN Human Rights Chief Urges Hamas to Halt Gaza Executions, UN NEWS CENTRE (Aug. 14, 2013).)

Pillay went on to say that she was concerned about the method of imposition of the death sentences by military and civil courts in Gaza, stating that “[o]ne 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.” (Id.) She added that “[s]erious concerns have also been raised about ill-treatment and torture during interrogations of persons later sentenced to death.” (Id.)

Ismail Jaber, the Attorney General of the Hamas regime, stated on the day that Pillay spoke out that the death penalty is imposed only “after all legal proceedings … are exhausted.” (John Heilprin, UN: Hamas Must Halt Prisoner Executions in Gaza, ABC NEWS (Aug. 14, 2013).) Jaber went on to say that the executions were planned for a person convicted of the rape of a boy and for the murder of that boy and another. He stated that the execution would be carried out in front of the victims’ families and other community figures “to deter others from committing similar offenses.” (Id.)

Amnesty International (AI) has noted that in at least one case, the convicted person now facing the death penalty was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime. (UN Rights Chief Tells Hamas to Halt Gaza Executions, MA’AN NEWS AGENCY (Aug. 15, 2013).) AI also asserted that another of the death row inmates was sentenced in March 2013 for “collaboration with an enemy entity” by the Central Military Court in Gaza City. His lawyer stated that the defendant had a bruised face and reported having been hung by his limbs and beaten during the interrogation process. (Hamas Must Halt Post-Eid Executions Planned in Gaza, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (Aug. 7, 2013).)