May 25, 2018

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How Palestinians can kill their daughters, sisters and wives, and get away with it

In just the past month, at least two women were murdered in Rafah, Gaza alone. A man shot his daughter and a husband stabbed his wife to death in her sleep.

Times of Israel discusses the little-known loophole that allows Palestinian murderers of women to get off easy:

Despite a series of reforms to the Palestinian legal code since 2011 aimed at preventing so-called “honor killings,” the law has continued to allow men who murder, assault and rape women in the Palestinian territories to receive significantly reduced sentences.

Over the past half year, a petition initiated by Palestinian women’s rights groups has received over 12,000 signatures asking Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to do away with the measure, which allows judges to use their discretion in cases that have “extenuating circumstances.”

Yet while the law’s effect on women is well-known and well-documented, neither canceling, freezing nor amending it is in the cards.

According to a legal adviser for the Palestinian Authority’s Women’s Affairs Ministry, the law is necessary to ensure justice in some cases.

…[I]n the majority of other such cases in Jordan and the Palestinian territories, the “extenuating circumstances” the judges cited to lighten the sentences were that the family dropped charges against the defendants — who are part of the family — saying it was an honor killing.

Once the charges are dropped — in Palestinian legal parlance this is called “dropping the personal right [of the victim]” — the judge can use Article 99 to lighten the sentence.

Palestinian women’s rights advocates have argued the law is a two-pronged dagger: it incentivizes murder by minimizing punishment and also incentivizes murderers of women to claim they killed for their family’s honor.

“We have documented cases where someone was killed over inheritance or financial issues but it was documented as an honor killing,” Victoria Shukri, director of the Women’s Courts Project in TAM, a women’s rights organization, told The Times of Israel in a recent telephone interview.

A 2014 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report found that the dropping of personal rights is most often the “extenuating circumstance” judges cite before granting clemency to abusers or murderers of women.

The UN report notes that Mahmoud Abbas supposedly modified the penal code to eliminate the exemption for “honor killings” – but Palestinian judges ignore the new language!

Moreover, the conflict of interest involved in the “waiving of right” exemption is simply ignored:

It is noted that Palestinian courts will in general
allow one of the heirs to the victim to waive their
personal right to punishment of the perpetrator
in cases of murder of women under the pretext of
as a cause for extenuating punishment. This
is what a majority of the judgments of the courts of
first instance (Criminal) are based on, a matter that
is explicitly expressed by the Court of Appeal held
in Ramallah, in its judgment No. 54/2005, when it
concluded “jurisprudence shows that when one of
the heirs waives a personal right, this is a reason for
”. Therefore, one of the heirs can waive
their right and courts can extenuate the penalty for
the offender. This is the result in the vast majority
of the cases reviewed. Waiving the right was in most
cases done by a single person, be it the father of the
victim or her brother or mother.
In other words, the family that waives its right may be
taking advantage of the fact that the criminal offense
has been committed in defense of its own honour,
claimed by the defense in most of these cases. The
courts have demonstrated no interest in looking into
conflict of interests or deliberate complicity in cases
where perpetrators had committed murder after
incitement by the family, as in felony No. 18/97 at
the Nablus first instance court, where the accused
had killed his sister following the urging of his family

Abbas’ supposed declaring “honor killings” to be murder in 2011 has done literally nothing to help Palestinian women.

(h/t/ Josh K)

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