Iraq urged to end executions amid ratification of death sentences
Posted On December 20, 2012 by Akashma Online News
Source Amnesty International/Huff Post
Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on ‘confessions’ obtained under torture.
Iraq must impose an immediate moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition Amnesty International said, amid yesterday’s reported ratification of further death sentences.
Iraq has executed nearly 100 people so far this year, a big increase over previous years that has intensified concern about whether defendants are receiving fair trials in a country where the United States has spent billions of dollars trying to reform the judicial system after decades of dictatorship.
The executions in 2012 of at least 128 people, all by hanging, amount to more than a quarter of all convicts who have been put to death in the last eight tumultuous years under leaders who struggled to stabilize a country at war after Saddam Hussein was ousted after US invaded Iraq.
Christof Heyns, the U.N. investigator on arbitrary executions, described the government-sanctioned executions as “arbitrary killing” that is “committed behind a smokescreen of flawed legal processes.” He warned that the ” continued lack of transparency about the implementation of the death penalty in Iraq, and the country’s recent record, raise serious concerns about the question of what to expect in the future.”
He made the remarks in a statement in August after more than two dozen people were executed in one week.
Death sentences for 28 people accused of terrorism-related offenses were reportedly ratified on 17 December by one of the vice-Presidents, the last step in the judicial process. They are at risk of imminent execution.
Earlier this month it has been reported that about 40 death row prisoners were transferred to al-Kadhemiya Prison in Baghdad where executions are carried out.
Iraq has executed at least 129 people in 2012, the highest number since 2005. As in previous years, hundreds were estimated to have been sentenced to death, or had death sentences upheld by the courts.
“Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on ‘confessions’ obtained under torture,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme’s Deputy Director.
“Instead of carrying out executions, the Iraqi authorities should prioritize fixing its deeply flawed criminal justice system.”
On 16 December, Iraqi vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi and his son-in-law were sentenced to death in absentia for the fifth time in a highly politicized trial by the Central Criminal Court, for possession and use of weapons. They have received four other death sentences on terrorism-related offences.
Since the death penalty was reintroduced in Iraq in 2004, the death sentence and executions are being imposed and carried out extensively, after procedures that violate human rights standards.
Many trials of those sentenced to death failed to meet international standards for fair trials, including by using “confessions” obtained under torture or other ill-treatment as evidence against the defendants.
Some Iraqi television stations continue to broadcast self-incriminating testimonies of detainees even before the opening of a trial, undermining the fundamental right of defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Amnesty International last week urged the Iraqi authorities to quash death sentences against four men sentenced on 3 December in Anbar province, western Iraq, following the broadcast of ‘confessions’ given while reportedly being tortured in pre-trial detention.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.