Human rights groups condemn killings of suspected Gaza informants

Twenty-five Palestinians were shot dead by what Reuters identified as Hamas-led gunmen

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Twenty-five Palestinians were shot dead last week in Gaza, on allegations of transferring information on the whereabouts of Hamas military leaders, following what media reports called a “hasty” legal process.

The crackdown came after the killing of three top Hamas military commanders in an Israeli airstrike, which would have required precise on-the-ground intelligence of their whereabouts, Reuters reported.

A number of those killed had already been serving sentences in Gaza’s prisons before the beginning of Israel’s assault, Shawan Jabarin, director of Ramallah-based human rights organization Al-Haq, told Al Arabiya News Channel.

“Why were they executed now? This shows that there has been meddling in the judicial process,” he said.

‘Extrajudicial killings’

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the killings as “extrajudicial” and a violation of human rights, in a statement issued following the shooting of 18 on Saturday, including two women.

Regardless of the Israeli offensive, “appropriate treatment must be afforded to those suspected of being informants,” a human rights source, who chose to remain anonymous, told Al Arabiya News.

Jabarin said: “We condemn this while recognizing the Palestinian judiciary’s right to stop and try these informants. The way things are being carried out in Gaza is very concerning.”

These actions smear the resistance and compromise the rule of law, Jabarin added.

Human Rights Watch condemned the deaths, and called on Hamas to “appropriately punish those behind the executions.”

A website affiliated with Hamas, the de-facto government of Gaza, said the sentences were handed following “revolutionary” legal proceedings, HRW said.

However, a printed pamphlet on the killings was signed by “the Palestinian Resistance,” not Hamas, sparking debate about who carried them out.

Past violations

Abdel Karim Shrair was found guilty of collaborating with the enemy, and was sentenced to death in 2011 by a Gaza military court (in 2008, then-Interior Minister Said Siyam transferred jurisdiction in cases of collaboration with hostile forces to military courts).

According to his mother’s testimony, Shrair was arrested on July 17, 2011, by members of Hamas’s military wing.

However, court documents show that he was only taken into the custody of internal security on Aug. 8.

Shrair’s confession was the primary source of evidence used against him, which his lawyers, according to a 2012 HRW report, said was solicited following his torture during questioning.

The report, titled “Abusive Systems: Failures of Criminal Justice in Gaza,” is based on interviews with former detainees, lawyers, human rights groups, and reviews of case files and court judgments.

The human rights source told Al Arabiya News that no court documents have been released showing the legal process that sentenced last week’s killings.

Israel’s responsibility

“The occupying power,” Jabarin said, “holds primary responsibility” for the deaths of the 25 Palestinians.

By recruiting Palestinians to pass on information, Israel is committing a war crime as this is in violation of Article 147 of the fourth Geneva Convention, which outlaws the recruitment of civilians in occupied territories, Jabarin said.

“We’re a people who have suffered injustice, and we should never accept anyone to suffer from it,” he said.

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