Ma'an News Agency
May 16, 2011 - 12:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas has directed the judiciary to award the "utmost punishment" to perpetrators of honor killings, his secretary-general said Friday.

The announcement was made during a talk show on satellite channel Palestine TV to discuss the murder of 20-year-old Ayah Barad'iyya by her uncle.

Abbas' secretary-general At-Tayyib Abdul-Rahim telephoned the presenter and announced on air that the president had ordered a legal amendment to end leniency in courts for men who kill to protect "family honor."

Director of Ma'an Network's TV department and women's rights activist Nahid Abu T'eima participated in the talk show. She had been campaigning for an amendment to the law, and burst into tears on air when she heard the announcement.

"This is a historical accomplishment to amend the 1960 penal law which belongs to the dark ages. Ma'an News Agency's coverage has helped amend that law which human right groups have been trying to change for 15 years," said Abu T'eima.

A live transmission from Surif village, where Ayah Barad'iyya was drowned by her uncle in April 2010, showed thousands of residents applauding the decision. Many also burst into tears.

The university student's body was found earlier this month in a deserted well three kilometers from her home in Surif, over a year after she was killed.

Her uncle confessed to police that he had tied her up and drowned her, with the help of three friends, because he disapproved of a marriage proposal she had been offered.

Honor killings and the law

Some Jordanian laws passed between 1948 and 1967 still operate in the West Bank. A Jordanian penal code from 1960, which commutes sentences for men who kill or attack female relatives accused or suspected of "dishonoring" their families, has never been repealed by the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The PLC has been defunct since 2007 -- following the internal Palestinian division -- but rights groups have requested the penal code's repeal by presidential decree.

In 2009, Abbas promised to change the law by International Women's Day in 2010, but the reforms were never made.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has noted that men have been granted "relative impunity" in the occupied territories when murdering in the name of honor.


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