On Tuesday 31 May 2016 , Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip executed three men convicted of murder: Ahmad Helmi ‘Abd al-Qader Shurab , 43, of Khan Yunis, sentenced to death on 15 May 2014; Yusef Muhammad Yusef Abu Shamleh, 38, of Deir al-Balah, sentenced to death on 23 October 2013; and Muhammad Fathi Muhammad ‘Othman 28, of Rafah, sentenced to death on 28 October 2013.
Since Hamas seized control of Gaza, 67 people have been sentenced to death by its courts, and 33 people have been executed, (this figure does not include people executed while Operation Protective Edge was underway) some of whom were sentenced to death before the Hamas takeover. In the West Bank, since the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established in 1995, PA courts have sentenced 72 people to death. Under Palestinian law, execution of a condemned person requires authorization by the President of the PA. Since assuming the presidency in 2005, Mahmoud Abbas has refused to authorize executions, and therefore none have been performed since that time in the West Bank. In the years before Abbas took office, 13 people were executed. West Bank courts continue to mete out death sentences; the latest one handed down was in 2015.
In Gaza, the Hamas regime resumed executions in 2010, arguing that Abbas’ tenure expired and his authorization is no longer required. There are currently 52 people on death row in Hamas and PA prisons, living with uncertainty as to their eventual fate. Ten of them are in West Bank prisons and the rest are in the Gaza Strip. Nine of the condemned men in the Gaza Strip were tried in absentia. B’Tselem condemns the use of capital punishment, which is both immoral and a grave violation of human rights. A state may not take a person’s life and violate that person’s right to life as a punitive measure, even if it is ostensibly for the purpose of law enforcement. There is no place for capital punishment in the law books, no matter the circumstances.