Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 01 February 2017
On 25 January 2017, the Military Court in Gaza issued sentences ranged between temporary and for life hard labor against Fatah Movement activists after being convicted of “undermining the revolutionary unity” in violation of Article 178 of the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) was given a power of attorney by the convicted persons to challenge the sentences and will work at full capacity to achieve justice for his clients.
PCHR is shocked by these exaggerated sentences on the abovementioned charge, over which PCHR reiterates its reservation. PCHR also emphasized that those sentences were issued in absence of the minimum fair trial guarantees and right to defense. Moreover, there are strong indications that the confessions, on which the issued sentences were based, were extracted under severe torture.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Military Court in Gaza issued sentences against eight Fatah activists, who are also with military ranks working in the Palestinian Authority (PA). The hard labor for life sentences were issued against Mohammed ‘Abdel Qader ‘Ali (50), a Colonel in the Preventive Security Service (PSS); Hisham Darwish Matter (44), a Major in the PSS and Samer Hashem al-Nemer (36), a private appointed in 2005.
The Court also issued a sentence of 15-year hard labor against Taher ‘Ali Abu ‘Armanah (35), a private appointed in 2005. Moreover, two sentences of 10-year hard labor against Shadi Mahdi Abu ‘Abdeid (34) and Fadi Salah Mesleh (30); both are privates appointed in 2005.
The Court also issued a sentence of 7-year hard labor against Ibrahim Isma’il Matter (43), First Assistant in the PSS, and Mohammed Naser al-Kharaz (31), a private appointed in 2005.
PCHR condemns the Military Court’s decisions, emphasizing there are strong indications about using severe torture to extract confessions from the convicted persons. According to lawyer of one of the convicted, there are bruises and stitches on different parts of their bodies, while some of them suffer from psychological trauma and hallucinations.
In their closing arguments, lawyers of the convicted persons stressed that “their clients’ activity did not go beyond the political action as they are members in Fatah Movement, and their confessions were obtained under duress.” PCHR believes that any forced confession is considered null and void regardless of the validity of these allegations.
PCHR condemns referring to Article 178 of the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code to issue the sentence as this article violates the international standards of criminalization. This article is also open to various interpretations and lacks any specific context. It is very clear through the wording of this article which stipulates that:
“Each person, who commits any act to undermine the national unity and common destiny of the revolution forces and Arab masses, should be punished with hard labor.”
When examining the text of the article, you can find the possibility of convicting anyone under this article regardless of what he committed. This Article also does not embed any real elements to depend on according to the criminalization texts.
PCHR wonders why the authorities in the Gaza Strip persist to apply the Revolutionary Penal Code and Revolutionary Procedural Law issued in Beirut 1979, which are both unconstitutional laws and lack the minimal international standards of justice.
PCHR reiterates its refusal to apply this law especially in light of the political bickering between the two parties to the conflict. Thus, PCHR declares receiving a power of attorney from the families of the convicted activists and will work on all legal levels to abolish the sentences.
PCHR emphasizes that its position came out of its belief that interfering into the criminal justice system is very dangerous and violates the international human rights standards and the Palestinian Basic Law.