With 65 prisoners executed in Iraq since the beginning of this year, a prominent human-rights organization is calling on the government to abolish the death penalty.
“The Iraqi government seems to have given state executioners the green light to execute at will,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The government needs to declare an immediate moratorium on all executions and begin an overhaul of its flawed criminal-justice system.”
On Wednesday alone, Iraqi authorities executed 14 prisoners; in January, 51 were executed. A Justice Ministry official told the group to “expect more executions in the coming days and weeks.” According to the organization, Iraqi law authorizes the death penalty for close to 50 crimes — from terrorism to murder to damage to public property — and the country's courts admit confessions obtained under coercion as evidence.
Late last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed loud concern about due process in Iraq after authorities there executed 34 people on a single day. Pillay also called on Iraq to halt all executions and review the cases of the people on death row.
"Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day," Pillay said, according to Reuters. "Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offenses for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure.”
The U.N. does not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, Pillay noted, even though there are “well-documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress."
According to the U.N., more than 1,200 people have been sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004.