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Palestinian Executed in Gaza
- [8-14 February] - Ref.: 12/2016
23، Feb 2016

Mahmoud_Rushdi_IshtewiOn 7 February 2016, members of the Al-Qassam Brigades executed Mahmoud Rushdi Ishtewi, 34, in Gaza. Mahmoud, a prominent member of the Brigades, was summoned for interrogations and then detained on 21 January 2015 by the Al-Qassam military wing. Mahmoud's family learned of his whereabouts only a few days after his detention. They were informed that Mahmoud was accused of financial, ethical and security offenses. The family requested that Mahmoud be represented by a lawyer and for fair trial procedures to be upheld. However, authorities in Gaza ignored such requests and repeatedly stated that he would be released soon.

During his detention, Mahmoud's family learned that he was continuously subjected to torture during interrogations. At one point, Mahmoud was able to send his family a letter which described his continuous torture by the Al-Qassam leaders and said that he was pressured to confess to accusations that he did not commit. After receiving the letter, members of Mahmoud's family met with Ismail Haniyeh who promised to quickly resolve the issue. Instead, the family was allowed to meet with Mahmoud in undisclosed locations, and only after they continued to exerted pressure on authorities.[1] Mahmoud told them that he was being tortured and beaten, placed in stress positions, and deprived of sleep by Al-Qassam.

On 2 July 2015, 300 members of Mahmoud's family organised a peaceful sit-in in front of Haniyeh's house in Gaza, demanding his release. A large group of security forces dispersed the protest, and attacked and beat the family members. Fifteen individuals were also arrested.

On 7 February 2016, the family received a phone call from Mahmoud's friend who informed them that Mahmoud's body was being held in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Later that day, Al-Qassam Brigades issued a press release confirming Mahmoud's execution for "moral and behavioural violations" after he had been brought before Al-Qassam's military and Shariah judiciary. Mahmoud was killed after being shot with a bullet that hit the left side of his chest. The family believes that Mahmoud was detained, interrogated and killed due to internal disputes between him and members of the Al-Qassam Brigades. (Al-Haq affidavit no. 85/2016)

Al-Haq is deeply troubled by Mahmoud’s execution which may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life and may be considered an extra-judicial killing. In July 2014, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) came into force in Palestine which upholds the right to life, liberty, security of person, and fair trial. According to Articles 11 and 14 of the Palestinian Basic Law, arrests can only be carried out by a judicial order in accordance with the provisions of the law, and a person is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law that guarantees the accused the right to defense. According to the family, Mahmoud was not represented by a lawyer in any judicial proceeding. Article 109 of the Basic Law dictates that a death sentence may only be implemented once endorsed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority.

Furthermore, under international human rights law, all persons deprived of their liberty must be treated with dignity, and be free from physical and psychological abuse. The International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment forbids such treatment in all circumstances. Article 13 of the Palestinian Basic Law also reiterates that detainees must be treated properly and that no one should be subjected to torture.

In light of this, Al-Haq calls on Palestinian authorities in Gaza to respect and abide by their obligations under international and national laws. Al-Haq also calls on the authorities to investigate the torture, ill-treatment and execution of Mahmoud and hold perpetrators accountable.

[1] According to Human Rights Watch, the family met with Mahmoud seven times throughout the year.