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Iraqi Execution Rate Highest For Ten Years

November 09, 2013
tags:#Amnesty, #execution, #Iraq
by:Jack Bicker
Executions in post-conflict Iraq have risen to the highest in a decade - higher than they were under the Saddam Hussein regime. As seven prisoners are executed in just one day, fears are growing among human rights groups for the lives of hundreds of death-row prisoners set to fall victim to this deadly upwards trend.

"Iraq’s increased use of the death penalty, often after unfair trials in which many prisoners report having been tortured into confessing crimes, is a futile attempt to resolve the country’s serious security and justice problems," reported Phillip Luther, Amnesty International's Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"In order to actually protect civilians better from violent attacks by armed groups, authorities in Iraq must effectively investigate abuses and bring those responsible to justice in a system that is fair, without recourse to the death penalty."

It is estimated that a minimum figure of 132 people have been executed this year in Iraq, however, the actual number is likely to be considerably higher as the Iraqi authorities have yet to publish full figures.

Only 2009 (at least 120 executions) and 2012 (at least 129) show execution numbers similar to this year's total, but in each of these cases the number represented a whole calendar year.

"The stark rise in executions witnessed in 2012 has only gotten worse in 2013. The government apparently refuses to accept that the death penalty does nothing in deterring attacks by armed groups against civilians in Iraq or other serious human rights abuses," said said Phillip Luther.

Death sentences often represent the culmination of an unreliable and unfair legal process in which prisoners are not offered access to appropriate legal advice, and "confessions" are often extracted as a result of torture.

In recent announcements declaring the execution of 23 prisoners in September and 42 in October, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice somewhat misleadingly stated that every death sentence handed down had been secondarily confirmed by the Court of Cassation before the executions were given official sanction.

However,  the Court of Cassation is reported to have regularly failed to take into account evidence that is contested by defendants, including the withdrawal of confessions, and the levelling of allegations of torture. Amnesty believes that the "generally paper-based procedure fails to give defendants a genuine review".

"For justice to prevail in Iraq the authorities have a long way to go to address the flaws in their criminal justice system, investigate claims of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, and, where applicable, grant re-trials in full compliance with international fair trial standards," continued Phillip Luther.

"The authorities in Iraq must stop their reliance on the death penalty, by immediately declaring a moratorium on executions as a first step and commuting all death sentences to prison terms."

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jack bicker
Jack Bicker