Death penalty supporters in the Gaza Strip rallied Wednesday outside a conference marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty, just days after the most recent execution in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
“The death penalty is fair; it’s a balanced outcome,” Shayma Tilbani, 17, was quoted in an AFP news agency report as saying. “The NGOs want to stop the criminals getting executed, but even life in prison is not the right punishment. We want a punishment based on the Koran.”
Tilbani’s brother was killed at his home in an attempted burglary in August, the report said.
Protesters, including relatives of murder victims, gathered outside the conference holding aloft posters with pictures of murdered family members and slogans promoting the death penalty.
“The death penalty is Islamic law – implement it against all criminals,” one sign reportedly read.
Speakers at the conference countered that the death penalty goes against both international humanitarian law and Islamic law.
“Islam doesn’t allow the death penalty or the killing of anyone,” Suleiman Awda, a lecturer in Islamic law at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University, was quoted as saying. “It is a religion of forgiveness.”
UN human rights delegate Pradeep Wagle warned of the dangers of executing people wrongly convicted of crimes.
“Human failure is always possible irrespective of how developed a justice system is and there is always the possibility of executing innocent people in any justice system,” he reportedly said.
Last Wednesday, Hamas, the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip, hanged Hani Abu Aliyan, 28, who was convicted of murders he had committed as a minor.
In May 2010, Abu Aliyan was sentenced separately for killings carried out in 2000 — when he was still a minor — and in 2009, in the latter case for “involuntary murder,” and received a life term for each crime, Human Rights Watch said. The prosecutor’s office appealed the sentences as too lenient, and an appeals court imposed the death penalty in both cases in September. Gaza’s highest court upheld the decision in July.
In August, Human Rights Watch campaigned for Hamas to stay all its planned executions, including Abu Aliyan’s, alleging that Gaza’s justice system is deeply flawed and that prisoners were executed in the past despite unfair trials based on forced confessions and violations of basic rights.
“Imposing the death penalty for a crime committed by a child makes the executions under Gaza’s abusive justice system especially atrocious,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay echoed that sentiment in comments she made in August condemning executions in Gaza.
“One 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,” Pillay said in a statement.
Abu Aliyan’s execution was publicly condemned by the European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah as well as by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Hamas has executed 17 people since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, according to the PCHR. Last week marked the first time somebody has been executed for murder since July 2012. However, in June, two men were executed for “collaborating” with Israel.
Times of Israel Staff and AP contributed to this report.