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UN: Hamas must halt prisoner executions in Gaza

Wednesday - 8/14/2013, 8:36am  ET

Gaza's Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh speaks during the Eid al-Fitr prayers in Yarmouk Stadium in Hamas- ruled Gaza City, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Muslims are celebrating the Eid al-Fitr feast which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) -- The militant Islamic group Hamas that rules Gaza should halt all executions because they are imposed without fair trial, the U.N.'s top human rights official said Wednesday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the Gaza authorities must follow international human rights law when seeking to impose the death penalty.

"One absolute requirement is that the death penalty can only be imposed after a fair trial. This is currently not possible in Gaza, neither legally nor practically," Pillay said in a statement.

She also has concerns about alleged ill-treatment and torture during interrogations of people who were later sentenced to death.

Hamas Attorney General Ismail Jaber told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the death penalty is imposed only against criminals or spies "after all legal proceedings against them are exhausted."

Jaber said authorities plan to execute a man, convicted of the rape and murder of a boy and the killing of that boy's friend for refusing to lend money. He said that execution will be carried out in a closed space in "coming days" in front of families of the victims, religious figures and other prominent members of the society, "to deter others from committing similar offenses."

The last such executions in Gaza happened in June, when the Hamas interior ministry said that two men whom it accuses of spying for Israel were executed by hanging in Gaza's central jail.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, after ousting forces from the Fatah party led by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has since governed only in parts of the West Bank.

Authorities in Gaza say that since Hamas took over in 2007, courts there have issued 36 death sentences, nine of which were carried out.

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Associated Press writer Ibrahim Barzak in the Gaza Strip contributed to this report.


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