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EU condemns Gaza's 'cruel, inhuman' death sentences

April 20, 2016 3:25 P.M. (Updated: April 23, 2016 4:44 P.M.)
Hamas security forces in Gaza City. (AFP/Mahmud Hams, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Wednesday condemned five death sentences issued by military courts in the Gaza Strip earlier in the week, saying capital punishment was "cruel and inhuman."

The condemnation comes exactly one week after the EU missions last criticized Gaza's de facto leaders Hamas for its use of capital punishment, and follows a total of 10 death sentences issued in the coastal enclave this year.

"The EU considers that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights," the missions said in a joint statement.

"It considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity."

Reiterating past statements, they concluded: "The authorities in Gaza must refrain from carrying out any executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend."

The five Palestinians most recently sentenced to death -- three by firing squad, two by hanging -- were all accused of collaborating with Israel. Information passed to Israel by Palestinian collaborators is often used to make arrests and assassinate high-profile figures.

Under Palestinian law, willful, premeditated murder and treason, as well as collaboration with the enemy, usually Israel, are punishable by death with the approval of the Palestinian president.

However, Hamas rejects the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term officially ended in 2009, and the movement has not sought his consent on cases of capital punishment.

Some 178 death sentences have been issued in Palestinian territory since 1994, 148 of them in the Gaza Strip, of which 90 were issued since 2007, when Hamas took over power there.

Rights groups have criticized Palestinian authorities in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip for implementing capital punishment without due process.
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