Hamas rally in Gaza
Hamas rally in Gaza Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

The European Union (EU) Representative and Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Tuesday condemned Hamas for sentencing two men found guilty of drug trafficking to death.

“The EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recall their firm opposition under all circumstances to the use of capital punishment,” the statement said, according to the Ma’an news agency.

“The EU considers that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. It considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity,” it added.

The statement called on “the de facto authorities in Gaza,” referring Hamas, to “refrain from carrying out any executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend."

The sentence that was handed down on Sunday marked the first time that the death penalty has been used in Gaza for a drug-related offense.

Most of the executions in Gaza to date have been of people convicted of spying for Israel, but Hamas has also executed people convicted of murder.

In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) territories must be approved by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in Ramallah and who imposed a moratorium on executions several years ago.

Hamas no longer recognizes Abbas’s legitimacy, and has in the past emphatically declared that the death penalty in Gaza can be carried out without the consent of Abbas.

The EU statement is not the first time that Hamas has been condemned over its death sentences. Amnesty International has previously urged Hamas to stop the executions of suspected collaborators with Israel.