Hamas executed three men it had accused of killing a terror mastermind by hanging and firing squad drawing international criticism, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Ashraf Abu Leila, the alleged triggerman in the killing of Mazen Faqha, a Hamas commander, in March, was hanged as well as Hisham al-Aloul, who was accused of being an accomplice. A third man, Abdullah al-Nashar, who had previously been part of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ guard detail, was executed by firing squad.
The executions were witnessed by 3,000 people who were invited by Hamas. They were streamed live from a building overlooking the execution site by a Gaza-based news agency.
Hamas arrested 45 people following the killing of Faqha. The three executed men were sentenced to death Sunday after a closed weeklong trial.
Fuqha was described as close to the terror group’s new Gaza-based leader, Yehya Sinwar. The two reportedly shared a jail cell in Israel before their release in the 2011 exchange for Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
“A regime that takes lives as a punitive or deterrent measure is committing an immoral act that constitutes an intolerable violation of human rights,” a statement from B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, said.
“Reliance on confessions, in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainee’s rights are prevalent, and other apparent due process violations further taint the court’s verdicts. Death as government-sanctioned punishment is inherently cruel and always wrong, no matter the circumstance,” said Sara Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director.
According to Palestinian law, Abbas must approve all executions. Since it ousted the ruling Fatah party from Gaza in 2007, Hamas has sentenced 109 people to death and executed 25, Reuters reported.
Following the announcement a year ago that Hamas planned to carry out thirteen executions, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement that his organization was “deeply concerned” about the announcement.
Last year’s announced executions would violate Palestinian law, as all death sentences must be approved by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Furthermore, the death penalty should “only be carried out in extremely limited circumstances, and pursuant to a trial and appeals that scrupulously follow fair trial standards,” Colville said. He observed that his office “has serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards.” The fact that the executions are planned to be carried out in public “[raises] alarm,” he added, as international human rights law forbids public executions.
International Court of Justice judge James R. Crawford has written that one of the principles of statehood is that “states are exclusively competent with respect to their internal affairs.” Without the ability to impose its authority on Gaza, the Palestinian Authority seems to fail this standard to qualify for statehood.
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