Move comes just three months after the first use of the death penalty in five years.
Drug offenders in the Gaza Strip are set to face the death penalty, the Hamas-led government has announced.
“Just as drugs will be destroyed, drug dealers will also be hanged,” Mohammed Abed, the de facto government’s attorney-general told a Gaza City crowd as police destroyed large quantities of confiscated marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA) pills, cocaine, alcohol and millions of prescription-strength pain relief tablets.
“We will amend penal code law to include the death penalty for this group who wish to ruin society by playing a non-patriotic, inhuman and immoral role.”
Police commander Abu Ubayda Al-Jarrah told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that a number of drug dealers had already been caught and charged.
“The death penalty is only for drug producers and dealers,” Ihab al-Ghussein, a spokesperson for the de facto government’s Ministry of Interior told The Media Line. “We give them a chance to repent and to stop selling these drugs. If they don’t follow our orders and come back to the people, then we are going to follow them, put them in jail, sentence them in front of the court and give them this penalty.”
“Yesterday a large amount of drugs were burned in the police compound,” he said. “This is the result of a big national campaign against drugs which began on June 26, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.”
The announcement comes three months after the Hamas-led government carried out the first judicially sanctioned executions in Gaza since the summer of 2005, and less than a year after Gaza’s de-facto government adopted an Egyptian law that would permit the execution of convicted drug dealers.
“We started using the Egyptian law at the beginning of this year, al-Ghussein said. “From now on, anyone who sells or deals drugs, this penalty will be put upon him as the law states.”
Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in the summer of 2007, Hamas set up a law enforcement and judicial apparatus that has been repeatedly criticized by local and international human rights organizations for lacking accountability mechanisms and trained personnel.
The Hamas-run government in Gaza is known to have sentenced well over a dozen people to death, most of them convicted in military courts of treason for “collaboration” with Israel.
Earlier this year the de facto government’s Minister of Interior Fathi Hamad told a Gaza radio station that the executions would be carried out soon and Gaza’s General Prosecution Office is known to have started the process of ratifying the death sentences of those convicted of treason and murder.
In April, the Hamas government executed Nasir Abu Farij and Mohammed Ismail, both accused of collaboration with Israel, by a firing squad. Then in May, three more men were executed: Amer Amer Sabir Hussein Jundiya for the murder of a money changer, Mattar Mohammed Al Shobaki for the kidnap and murder of a money changer and Rami Sa’eed Juha for the rape and murder of a female minor.
Half-a-dozen Palestinian human rights organizations have criticized the killings, arguing they were based on the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which has not been ratified by the Palestinian Legislative Council or any other democratically elected body and therefore does not make up a part of the Palestinian Authority’s legal system.
In addition, since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, the narrow coastal strip has been governed by a de facto administration under Isma’il Haniyya, while the West Bank has been led by a caretaker government appointed by Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud ‘Abbas.
Palestinian law requires that death sentences be ratified by the President before they are carried out. However, since ‘Abbas’ term ended in January 2009, Hamas has not recognized his legitimacy as president.
The Hamas government did not send a request to ‘Abbas to ratify the death sentences.
“Hamas considers Abu Mazen’s [‘Abbas’] term to have expired, so according to them if they want to execute, they can easily claim that ‘Abbas is no longer the president,” Issam Younis, Director of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which monitors executions, told The Media Line. “But without the approval of the president an execution is illegal. The status of the president is what’s important, not who is the president or whether there even is a president.”
The prescription pain killer Tramal is particularly popular in Gaza, and the United Nations has warned of its growing use.
“With increased trauma and stress and limited access to professional psycho-social services, there is a rising problem of self-medication with unsupervised pharmaceutical therapies among the Gaza population,” a UN Gender Task Force report said earlier this year.
Younis said that while drug abuse was a problem, the government was using the death sentence as a scare tactic and is unlikely to actually carry it out in drug cases.
“So far they have not done it and I don’t think it will be implemented in the foreseeable future,” he told The Media Line. “I think it’s more of a scare tactic as part of combating drug dealing in Gaza... For them, those who are accused of murder or collaborating with Israel is a completely different story than drug dealers.”
Written by Benjamin Joffe-Walt
Published Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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Hamas to Execute Drug Offenders