BAGHDAD, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Iraq should halt all executions and get rid of the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
Since the start of this year, Iraq has executed at least 65 prisoners, 51 in January and 14 through Wednesday, the international rights organization said in a release.
"The Iraqi government seems to have given state executioners the green light to execute at will," said Joe Stork, HRW's deputy director for the Middle East. "The government needs to declare an immediate moratorium on all executions and begin an overhaul of its flawed criminal justice system."
An Iraqi Justice Ministry official confirmed to Human Rights Watch that authorities executed 14 prisoners Wednesday and told HRW to expect more executions "in the coming days and weeks."
Human Rights Watch, which opposes capital punishment, said it was concerned that Iraqi courts admit coerced confessions as evidence. It said the Iraqi government must reveal the identities, locations, and status of prisoners on death row, the crimes for which they were convicted, court records from when they were charged through sentencing, and details of pending executions.
The United Nations indicated more than 1,200 people are thought to have been sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004, Human Rights Watch said. The number of prisoners executed during that period has not been revealed publicly. Iraqi law permits the death penalty for nearly 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping and murder, as well as offenses such as damage to public property.