UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay MladenovReuters

The UN envoy for the Middle East on Wednesday expressed alarm after Hamas authorities in Gaza moved to hold public executions, and urged them to change course, AFP reports.

Hamas announced earlier this week that it plans to carry out a series of public executions of convicted criminals, an unusual move as the group has rarely conducted executions in public and when it did, it was mainly of people accused of collaborating with Israel.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that public executions are prohibited under international human rights law and that any such killings in Gaza would be carried out without the approval of Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.

"I urge Hamas not to carry out these executions and call on President Abbas to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty," Mladenov told the council by video-conference, according to AFP.

The death penalty can be applied only to the most serious crimes following a judicial process that upholds fair trial standards, the envoy said.

"I have serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards," he added.

13 men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, are currently awaiting execution, according to Hamas officials.

Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences in 2005 but Hamas ignores his directive and carries out the executions anyway, as it no longer recognizes the legitimacy of Abbas, whose four-year term expired in 2009.

The last public executions in Gaza took place during the most recent war with Israel in 2014, when the group executed dozens of men accused of collaborating with Israel.

Amnesty International has previously called on Hamas to stop the executions of suspected collaborators, saying that the group “must immediately and totally cease its use of the death penalty.”

In his remarks Wednesday, Mladenov also warned that a recent upsurge in violence between Israel and Hamas could lead to another war.

A ceasefire agreed in August 2014 "needs to be vigorously upheld by all sides if we are to avoid slipping into another devastating conflict," he said.