Calls grow to press on Israel to prevent controversial death penalty

Middle East Monitor  /  March 2, 2023

A European human rights organization, as well as Palestinian factions and institutions, have called for international pressure to prevent Israel from passing a death penalty bill against Palestinian prisoners convicted of killing Israelis, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Israel’s Parliament, Knesset, approved Wednesday the first reading of the controversial bill presented by the far-right Jewish Power party, headed by National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and endorsed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The proposed bill must be approved and enacted in three voting sessions to be held in the Knesset after being accepted by the government.

The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called Wednesday on all relevant parties to “pressure Israel to prevent death penalty legislation against Palestinian detainees” and stressed the need for it to respect international human rights treaties.

“What is more concerning is that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are tried by kangaroo military courts, with a conviction rate above 99 per cent, which means a total lack of fair trial,” Lara Hamidi, Euro-Med Monitor’s partnerships and communications coordinator, told the UN Human Rights Council.

She stressed that the Israeli actions on the ground “reflect a pattern of systematic extrajudicial executions” carried out by the Israeli army.

Israeli Oppression

For its part, Mohjat al-Quds Foundation for the Martyrs, a Palestinian non-governmental organization, said that “the (draft) law of executing prisoners is an attempt to kill and uproot everything that is Palestinian”.

In a statement, the Foundation called on international and human rights institutions, and the UN, to “break the state of silence and put pressure on the Zionist occupation to stop passing the law and stop repressive measures against prisoners and detainees.”

Also, the Waed Association for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners, a Palestinian NGO, said in a statement that the bill “violates and contradicts all international laws” and it “clearly reflects the extent of the decadence and confusion of the Zionist entity.”

The Director of the Foundation, Abdullah Qandil, called on Arab countries and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to “exercise their efforts towards dropping this law, which will change the nature of the entire (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict and will drag the region into an open confrontation.”

Legalization of murder

On the other hand, the Palestinian Hamas group said “the law of executing Palestinian prisoners is an  open attempt to legitimize the systematic killings carried out by the Occupation Forces against our people, and disrespect for the international system and laws and covenants.”

In a statement, the group called for “an effective international action to deter and punish this Zionist government that has never stopped killing and hurting (against Palestinians).”

On 29 December, the Knesset gave confidence to the current government headed by Netanyahu, which is described as “the most right-wing in the history of Israel,” especially in terms of policies hostile to the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine described the draft law as “a racist fascist par excellence, and (it) expresses the depth of the fascist state that controls the overwhelming majority of Knesset members.”

The front warned in a statement that “approving it in its final form will further ignite the flames of popular anger.”

Death sentence

According to the Knesset, the bill stipulates that a person who, intentionally or recklessly causes the death of an Israeli citizen and, when the act is carried out with racist or hateful motives and to harm Israel, must face the death penalty.

Despite the arrest of the perpetrators of the attacks, according to the Knesset, “in practice, all the killers receive comfortable conditions in prison and salaries from the Palestinian Authority and, at the appropriate time, most of them are released in various deals.”

About 4,500 prisoners are held in 23 Israeli prisons and detention and investigation centres, including children, women and hundreds of administrative details who are being held without trial, according to the concerned Palestinian bodies.