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UN rights chief denounces Hamas executions

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday decried [press release] the recent decision by Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to execute several of its prisoners. On Thursday, the de-facto government of Palestinian Gaza [JURIST news archive] executed Naser Abu Furaih and Mohamed al-Sabaa, both of whom were convicted of treason last February in connection with the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Pillay, who said that she was "alarmed" by reports that Hamas planned to execute several more prisoners soon, called on the Islamist authority to abolish the use of the death penalty:

It is extremely disappointing that Hamas is contemplating a return to the use of the death penalty, despite the fact that no officially-sanctioned death sentences have been carried out in Gaza since 2005. ... I call on Hamas to reconsider its position and exhibit respect for the international community's firm rejection of the death penalty ... and to fully uphold and promote the right to life.

Human rights groups have also denounced the executions. On Thursday, Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem [advocacy website] condemned Hamas [press release], saying that the prisoners' trial "did not meet even minimal standards of due process." Also Thursday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) [advocacy website] said that any execution conducted without the ratification of Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile], the president of the secular Palestinian National Authority (PNA) [IMEU backgrounder], was unconstitutional [press release].

Hamas has recently fallen under fire [JURIST report] from human rights groups recently for its failure to conduct an independent investigation into accusations of war crimes during the January 2009 Gaza conflict [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The UN called on the Islamist authority to conduct a thorough investigation in a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] last October.

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