Hamas-led council backs executions without Abbas approval

Sunday 22/05/2016
Flagrant disregard of Palestinian law

GAZA CITY - The Hamas-led Palestinian parliament said on Wednesday it had the authority to rule on implementing death penalties in Gaza without the approval of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council said in a statement it had backed a ruling allowing them to enforce the death penalty "in Gaza."

In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian territories must be approved by Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank.

However, Islamist Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, no longer recognises his legitimacy, and authorities there announced on Sunday they were planning to carry out a series of public executions.

"Capital punishments will be implemented soon in Gaza," attorney general Ismail Jaber told journalists Sunday. "I ask that they take place before a large crowd."

Jaber added that the council was the "sole legal party" with authority in the matter, in reference to Abbas's authority.

However the full Palestinian Legislative Council has not met since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.

Thirteen men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, are currently awaiting execution, according to Hamas officials.

The United Nations condemned the news Wednesday.

"We are deeply concerned about recent statements made by the authorities in Gaza, including the attorney general, of their intention to implement a number of death sentences, and fear that the first executions may be imminent," Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement Wednesday.

"We are also concerned about reports indicating that these executions will be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law."

The last public executions in Gaza were in 2014 during the last war with Israel when a firing squad from Hamas's armed wing shot dead six men before Gaza City's main mosque following prayers.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), nine death sentences were handed down in the Gaza Strip in 2015 and two in the occupied West Bank, run by the Palestinian Authority.

So far this year, around 10 more have been handed down in Gaza.