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Abbas amends law on honor killings

“[PA] Chairman Mahmoud Abbas published a legally binding decree amending Article 98 of the [Palestinian] Penal Law No. 12 of 1960.

Hassan Al-Ouri, legal advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the significance of this amendment was its abrogation of mitigating circumstances in cases in which the act is committed against a woman for motives of what is referred to as ‘family honor.’ According to Al-Ouri, this means that the court has no authority to invoke mitigating circumstances [in the defendant’s favor] when the victim is revealed to it [the court] to be a woman, and when the crime was committed for motives of what is referred to as ‘family honor.’ …

According to the amendment, which was published through a [presidential] decree, Article 98 of the [Palestinian] Penal Law No. 12 of 1960 will read as follows: ‘Mitigating circumstances shall apply in cases in which the crime was carried out in a state of extreme anger, as a result of a serious and unjust act…’ The amendment adds: ‘Mitigating circumstances shall not be granted to the perpetrator if the crime was committed against a woman for motives of honor.’

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) welcomed this decision. Baha Al-Saadi, the [UN] HRC representative in the Palestinian territories, told Reuters: ‘We welcome this move, which we consider a great step forward…’ He added that the council had conducted a study of cases of murder committed under the pretext of honor, and had concluded that an amendment of the law was necessary.

Al-Saadi explained: ‘There is an additional article in the Penal Law that needs amending: [the article that allows] the victim’s family to waive its personal right (i.e., waiving the right to compensation from the murderer’s family, which is often the same family as the victim’s).’ He also said that the study showed that, in 60 of the cases included in the study, the murderer benefited from this article of the law, which permits the waiving of the personal right [of the victim’s family].

This decision came in the wake of a steep rise in cases of murder of women – most recently, the murder of a woman by her husband in a Shari’ah law court in Birzeit, north of Ramallah, and the strangling to death of another woman by her husband in one of the refugee camps.”
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