For the first time in five years, five Palestinian nationals were executed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip in early September. According to Al Jazeera, Hamas announced that two of the five condemned to capital punishment were found guilty of collaborating with the Israeli occupation and were given the right to due process. In a statement released by Palestine’s Ministry of Interior and National Security, Palestinian authorities explain that the two men were condemned on espionage charges dating back to 2001 and 1991 resulting in “the targeting and martyrdom of (Palestinian) citizens.”
The Palestinian authorities refused to release the identities of the condemned, opting instead to provide their initials and year of birth. Three others were condemned in criminal cases according to the Ministry of Interior’s statement; a convict identified with the initials A.A. accused of two counts of murder and escaping prison, a convict identified with the initials M.G. accused of robbery and murder, and a convict identified with the initials C.S. accused of intentionally killing a citizen, a girl, and wounding 11 others.
Despite the Palestinian authorities’ claim that the executions were done “in accordance with the stipulated legal process” and “after all degrees of litigation had been exhausted,” the executions have been denounced by various international human rights organizations.
The United Nations Human Rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani delivered a statement condemning the execution of the five prisoners. Shamdasani accused the Palestinian state of “violating its own domestic law and its obligations under international law” as the approval of the Palestinian president had not been secured prior to the executions as required by Palestinian law.
Shamdasani also signaled that there are serious reasons to believe that the proceedings resulting in the imposition of the death sentence in Palestine do not meet the international standards of a fair trial, and that as a signatory of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Palestine is obliged to abolish its executions as a matter of international law.
The last official executions in Gaza had occurred in 2017 after 3 people were executed for the assassination of a Hamas leader as reported by The Washington Post. Nearly 3,000 people were invited to attend the executions. France 24 informs that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement has been divided from Hamas since 2000, with the Palestinian authorities operating in the West Bank while Hamas rules over the remaining 2.3 million Palestinians living under the Israeli-led blockade. The Jerusalem Post reports that there has been an influx of Fatah activists who have turned to Hamas as they no longer feel confidence in their leaders.
With the intensity of Israeli attacks increasing in Palestine, the Fatah leadership is at a crossroads and will need to assert its authority to prevent the escalation of conflict; something which seems to have increased in difficulty as Hamas has bypassed the president’s authority by implementing the capital punishment without his permission and despite of the president’s promise to not use the death penalty.