Palestine takes a bold decision to abolish the capital punishment
During a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, a senior Palestinian official said that one of the seven international treaties and conventions that the Palestinian government has recently signed is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
By signing this convention, Palestine joins 103 countries in abolishing the criminal act of punishing a person by ending their life. Fifty-six countries retain capital punishment, 103 countries have completely abolished it de jure for all crimes, six have abolished it for ordinary crimes, while maintaining it for special circumstances, such as war crimes, and 30 are abolitionist in practice.
The commitment not to carry out capital punishment puts Palestine in good company and projects a more progressive attitude towards the right of life.
Capital punishment is a matter of active controversy in several countries and states, and positions can vary within a single political ideology or cultural region. Article 2 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits the death penalty.
The Council of Europe, which has 47 member states, has sought to abolish death penalty by Protocol 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. However, the convention is only effective in member states which have signed and ratified it, and they do not include Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan.
The United Nations General Assembly has adopted in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, non-binding resolutions calling for a global moratorium on executions, with a view to eventual abolition. Although most nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60 per cent of the world's population live in countries where the death penalty is retained, such as China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan and Sri Lanka.
Ironically, Israel, which carries out impromptu capital punishment against unarmed civilians on a regular basis, has capital punishment on its legal books, but has only used it once against the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, who was brought to Israel, tried and executed by hanging after a court decision in 1962.
Israeli intelligence officials have recommended against the use of capital punishment against Palestinian fighters worried that it would increase, and not decrease, attacks on Israelis. By creating a martyr, Israel would encourage Palestinians to carry out violent missions with no chances of survival since those carrying them out will know that if they survive, they will be killed anyway, according to Israeli intelligence leaders.
For Palestinians, abolishing capital punishment will create an internal problem with the Islamic movements in general, and the acting power in Gaza, Hamas, which has ordered and carried out capital punishment against Palestinians numerous times, usually on charges that those individuals carried out treason acts by providing information to the enemy of the Palestinian people.
For ordinary Palestinians, the issue of capital punishment has not received enough discussion. While religious debate has justification for both sides of the argument, the fact is that cancelling capital punishment resonates well with more progressive secular Palestinians and intellectuals.
It is not clear what the various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation think of capital punishment. In general, left-wing movements generally oppose it, although some exceptions have been seen worldwide.
The right to life is precious and no mortal has the right to take it away. Courts across the world have demonstrated in numerous occasions how capital punishment has been unjustly carried out to innocent individuals. The discovery of DNA and its introduction to the court system has revealed cases of persons who were wrongly punished for crimes they did not commit.
The Arabic proverb says, “the sword has preceded justice”. The fact that Palestine has agreed to overcome internal conservative forces and agreed to commit not to use capital punishment will be added to the legacy of the Palestinian leadership, specifically to that of the aging Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.