UN: Hamas must halt prisoner executions in Gaza

Human rights commissioner says a fair trial in the coastal enclave is ‘neither legally nor practically’ possible

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (photo credit: CC-BY Antônio Cruz, Wikimedia Commons)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (photo credit: CC-BY Antônio Cruz, Wikimedia Commons)

GENEVA  — The militant Islamic group Hamas should halt all executions because they are imposed without fair trial, the UN’s top human rights official said Wednesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said authorities in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, must follow international human rights law when seeking to impose the death penalty.

“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.

She also has concerns about alleged ill-treatment and torture during interrogations of people who were later sentenced to death.

Hamas Attorney General Ismail Jaber told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the death penalty is imposed only against criminals or spies “after all legal proceedings against them are exhausted.”

Jaber said authorities plan to execute a man convicted of the rape and murder of a boy and the killing of that boy’s friend for refusing to lend money.

He said the execution would be carried out in a closed space in “coming days” in front of families of the victims, religious figures and other prominent members of society, “to deter others from committing similar offenses.”

The last such execution in Gaza happened in June, when the Hamas Interior Ministry said that two men accused of spying for Israel were executed by hanging in Gaza’s central jail.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, after ousting forces from the Fatah party led by Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has since governed only in parts of the West Bank.

Authorities in Gaza say that since Hamas took over in 2007, courts there have issued 36 death sentences, nine of which were carried out.

On Sunday Amnesty International made a similar plea to the Hamas authorities to abort its planned executions and said that some of those facing the death sentence were tortured into confessing their crimes.

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