In a letter to President Yasir Arafat, Human Rights Watch today condemned the executions of Ra'id and Mohammad Abu Sultan, and called upon Arafat not to ratify any pending or future death penalty sentences.

This is a major step backward," said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "Until yesterday President Arafat had not ratified any death sentences. The executions prove that the only effective safeguard is to remove this barbaric punishment from the statute books."

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that international fair trial minimum standards may have been violated in this and other death penalty cases. The organization called upon Arafat to review all previous cases resulting in death sentences and release or retry those individuals found to have been unfairly convicted, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that all trials meet minimum international fair trial standards. It also asked for clarification of the trial, sentencing, and review process.