U.N. official condemns latest mass execution in Iraq

By Allen Cone  |  Dec. 16, 2017 at 12:04 PM
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Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The execution of 38 militants in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah this week drew outrage from the United Nations Human Rights office and Amnesty International.

Iraq's judiciary convicted the male prisoners on terrorism-related charges and all appeal options available were exhausted before they were executed Thursday, the Justice Ministry said.

"We are deeply shocked and appalled at the mass execution," spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell told a regular U.N. briefing Friday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Coming on the heels of another large-scale Iraqi execution in September, Throssell said this week's actions "once again raises huge concerns about the use of the death penalty in the country."

"Given the flaws in the Iraqi justice system, it also appears extremely doubtful that strict due process and fair trial guarantees were followed in these 38 cases," she said. "This raises the prospect of irreversible miscarriages of justice and violations of the right to life."

She urged Iraq to change its policies.

"We once again urge the Iraqi authorities to halt all executions, establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of the criminal justice system."

In all, the U.N. agency said it has learned that 106 executions have been carried out in Iraq in 2017. Officials hanged 42 prisoners in one mass execution this September.

At that time, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said he was "appalled" by those executions and said "under international law, the death penalty may only be imposed after a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements have been met."

In 2016, the Ministry of Justice announced the execution of 88 prisoners.

Amnesty International also criticized this week's executions.

"Individuals who carry out deadly attacks against the civilian population should face justice, but carrying out executions is not the answer," the organization said Thursday. "There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than a term of imprisonment.

"The death penalty should not be used in any circumstances and especially in Iraq, where the government has a shameful record of putting people to death after deeply unfair trials and in many cases after being tortured to 'confess.' "

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State.

"It is disheartening to see this week's celebrations tainted with yet another mass execution," Amnesty International said. "The victims of IS deserve justice, not mass executions carried out after deeply flawed and hasty trials."

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