government: Military and NPA-administered
state of civil and political rights: Not free
religion: Muslim majority; Christian and Jewish minorities
death row: at least 21 according to Human Rights Watch
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 20
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
On 29 November 2012, the General Assembly voted to grant Palestine non-Member Observer State status at
the United Nations. The Resolution on the status of Palestine in the UN was
adopted by a vote of 138 in favour to nine against, and with 41 abstentions.
In Palestinian areas, three types of penal legislation are currently applied. In
the West Bank the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) is enforced, which
provides for the death penalty in cases of high treason and murder. The Gaza
Strip is under Egyptian Law No. 74 (1936) that imposes the death penalty for
the disturbance of internal order. There is also the Palestinian Authority (PA)
law that is fairly flexible concerning capital punishment. Normally, executions are carried out by hanging in cases of civilians
condemned to death and by firing squad for police and military personnel receiving
a death sentence. However, this general rule is not always respected. Those guilty of treason
are also condemned on the basis of Article 131/A of the Palestinian
Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, and according to Military Penal Code no. 4
(2008). It is worth noting that the Revolutionary Penal Code of Palestine
Liberation Organization is unconstitutional in the PNA, as it has not been
presented to nor approved by the legislature. In addition, the Military Penal
Code no. 4 (2008) was issued in the context of ongoing political fragmentation
that prevents the legitimate operation of the Palestinian Legislative Council
(PLC), whose meetings are held by members of the Change and Reform Bloc (Hamas),
with other Parliamentary Blocs and PLC members refusing to participate.
Article 327 of the Palestinian National Authority Criminal Procedure Law (#3
2001) requires the submission of an appeal in all cases in which the death
penalty or a life prison term has been handed down. The appeal must be
submitted to the appeals court in Gaza city within 15 days of the decision. If
the appeal is rejected, the death sentence must then be ratified by the
President of the Palestinian Authority in order for it to be implemented.
On 27 March 2014, Faraj Al Ghoul, the head of the Legal Department at the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza, recently announced that the
Palestinian parliament in Gaza will impose a new punitive law to replace Law No
74 (1936). The senior Hamas official told Gulf News that the Gaza Strip and Palestine in general need a new punitive law to replace the
old and “impractical” one. He said that the spread of crime was the reason the
new punitive law “which is inspired by” Sharia had been drafted. The law stipulates a minimum of 20 lashes for a minor offense,
with the number of lashes increasing with the seriousness of the offense. A
minimum of 80 lashes is to be imposed in criminal cases. The law also widens
the use of the death penalty as per Sharia.
Articles No 289, and 290 of the proposed law stipulate the cutting off of the
hand of a thief and a minimum of seven years in jail in case the criminal
repeats his crime. Hamas’ move was condemned by Palestinian factions. The Popular Front for Liberation of
Palestine (PFLP), along with several other Palestinian factions, labelled the
move as an attempt to impose Hamas’conservative agenda on the whole of Palestinian society. “Penalties like
lashing are not compatible with Palestinian society, which is a multicultural
society,” the PFLP statement said.
In 2006, the PNA held its first national elections in which Hamas participated.
It won a surprise victory, claiming 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats.
Immediately after the victory, Hamas spokesman Hamed Bitawi declared: “The
Quran is our constitution, Muhammad is our prophet,jihad is our path, and dying
as martyrs for the sake of Allah is our biggest wish.” His statement was
answered with a standing ovation and calls of “Allahu Akbar.”
Then, in a coup in June 2007, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, ousting its rival
party Fatah and assassinating Fatah loyalists. Since then, in the Gaza Strip,
the influence of radical Islam on the daily lives of the population has
Regardless of any legal basis, Islamic codes of behaviour are imposed on the population
by the iron-fisted control of Hamas through its strategic control of schools,
mosques, social welfare structures and the media, which have all had a decisive
impact on current life in the Gaza Strip. The imposition of such codes in daily
life is enforced by the internal security forces of Hamas, which operate like a
sort of “moral police” similar to those found in Iran, Saudi Arabia and in
Afghanistan at the time of the Taliban, making sure, for example, that women on
the streets or at the beach are dressed appropriately.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas has created an independent legal system, with the Gaza
High Court of Justice no longer under the authority of the Palestinian National
Authority. As a result, the legal requirement that the President of the
Palestinian Authority sign all death sentences is not applied in the Gaza
On 30 November 2009, the Hamas-run government ruling Gaza approved a legal
change that allows for the execution of convicted drug dealers.
On 19 September 2010, the PNA reaffirmed the death penalty for any Palestinian
found guilty of selling land to Israelis.
Since the Palestinian Authority was instituted in 1994, 27 Palestinians have
been ‘legally’ executed, including six people executed on charges of
collaboration with Israel. Two of these executions were carried out in the West
Bank, the last of which was in 2002, and 25 in the Gaza Strip. Since 2006, the
Hamas-led government in Gaza has implemented 14 death sentences including 6
sentences for collaboration with foreign bodies and 8 sentences for criminal
The PNA carried out its first execution on 30 August 1998. Two brothers, Raed
and Muhammad Abu Sultan, members of the Palestinian military intelligence, were
executed by firing squad in Gaza City after receiving a summary and unfair
trial before a special military court, only three days after they were charged
with committing two killings.
On 12 June 2005, the PNA resumed executions after three years. Four men, all
convicted of murder, were executed in Gaza City, three by hanging and one by
firing squad. Ten days after the executions and following international
criticism, on 22 June 2005, Mahmoud Abbas asked his justice minister to annul
court verdicts against dozens of Palestinians, including some convicted of
collaborating with Israel. However, another execution – the fifth of 2005 –
took place on 27 July, when Raed al-Mughrabi was put to death for murder at the
prison in Gaza City.
As far as the preceding years are concerned, in 2002, three people were shot to
death, all for murder; in 2003, four people were condemned to death, but no
executions were carried out; in 2004, for the second year running, no
executions were carried out in Palestine.
In 2010, the Hamas Government in Gaza resumed executions after a de facto moratorium
that had lasted five years: on 15 April, two Palestinians were executed by
firing squad, after being convicted by a military court of collaborating with
Israel; another three men convicted of murder were hanged on May 18. It was the
first time that Hamas carried out formal executions since the Islamist group
seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from the rival Fatah party of
President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs in the West Bank.
In 2011, Gaza’s Hamas rulers executed three Palestinians convicted of
collaboration with Israel.
Executions on the Gaza Strip continued in 2012, and were at least six. On April
11, the European Union condemned the first three executions and urged the
Hamas-led government to “comply with the de
facto moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian
Authority”. On July 19, after other three executions, the European Union
Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah reiterated the EU's opposition "under
all circumstances" to the use of capital punishment and urged the
authorities in Gaza to refrain from carrying out any executions of prisoners.
Between 16 and 20 November 2012, after Israel launched its latest assault on
Gaza called “Pillar of Cloud”, the military wing of the Hamas government
brutally and publicly executed seven Palestinians who were accused of spying
Executions on the Gaza Strip continued in 2013 (at least 3) and 2014 (at
In 2013, at least 14 death sentences were issued in Palestine (at least 13 in the
Gaza Strip and 1 in the West Bank), including 10 for collaboration with Israel.
In the first six months of 2014 (as of 17 May), at least 6 new death
sentences were handed down (all in Gaza), including 1 for collaboration with
As of 17 May 2014, the total number of death sentences handed down since the
establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 was 154, including 127 death
sentences issued in the Gaza Strip and 27 in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights