Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Hamas to cancel the planned public hanging of several prisoners in Gaza after the ruling authorities declared they would execute the men as an example to others.
“We acknowledge the right and responsibility of governments to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offenses, but the death penalty is cruel and inhuman, and there is no evidence that it deters crime more effectively than other punishments,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, in a press statement issued last week.
According to Amnesty, Hamas’s attorney general said that the public executions of the “criminals” would be carried out after last week’s Eid al-Fitr festival and was intended to serve as a “lesson” to others.
“This and other recent announcements by Hamas authorities that they will carry out further executions are deeply disturbing,” Luther said. “Public executions are degrading and compound the cruelty of the death penalty.”
The rights organization said that at least some of those facing the death sentence made their confessions after being tortured.
One 27-year-old man known only as “HMA” was arrested for the unintentional murder of a friend but then allegedly tortured into confessing to the rape and murder of a six-year old boy as well.
The man’s lawyer explained that he was originally given two life sentences for the deaths and a further 14 years for the rape but, after appealing the sentences, the Appeals Court increased their severity to a death sentence.
HMA was given the death sentence despite being a minor at the time that the rape allegedly took place and therefore immune to the death sentence under Palestinian law.
Another man, 23, told his lawyer that he had been hung by his wrists and ankles and beaten until making a confession. According to the lawyer, when his client later appeared in court his face was bruised and he was weeping. In March this year the Central Military Court in Gaza City sentenced the man to death for “collaboration with an enemy entity.”
“Hamas should pursue justice by prosecuting people accused of internationally recognizable crimes in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty and ensuring all allegations of torture are investigated,” Luther said. ““We are urging Hamas to immediately halt all executions planned for after Eid al-Fitr, and to go further by establishing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and commuting all death sentences.”
Amnesty said there are currently 40 people facing a death sentence in Gaza. In June two men were executed by hanging for “collaborating with the enemy.”
In March Hamas offered a month-long amnesty for “collaborators” who turned themselves in to authorities and when it expired in April the government vowed to “pursue and execute” suspected spies.
During Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, Hamas publicly executed six men it accused of being “collaborators with the occupation” and dragged their bodies through the streets. In April Human Rights Watch panned the Islamist government in the Gaza Strip for not following through on a promise to investigate and prosecute the men who tortured and executed the suspected collaborators without due process.