UN report documents alarming rise in exactions in Iraq

A report published on Sunday by top United Nations officials documents the alarming rise in executions carried out by Iraq since the restoration of the death penalty in 2005.

The report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) details how executions in Iraq are often carried out in batches.

Up to 34 individuals were executed in a single day and that overall, many convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice.

The UN officials are also deeply troubled by the weaknesses in the criminal justice system.

According to the report “half of the trials involving the death penalty monitored by UNAMI, judges systematically ignored claims by defendants that they were subjected to torture to induce confessions, and in the remainder of cases they took little or no action.”

In 2009, 124 people were executed. Despite a drop in the implementation rate in 2010, the number of executions significantly increased between 2011 and 2013, culminating in the hanging of 177 individuals in 2013. Between 1 January and 30 September 2014 at least 60 people have been executed.

A press release on the report notes that, as of August 2014, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, some 1,724 prisoners are awaiting execution. This number includes those sentenced to death at first instance, those on appeal, and those awaiting implementation of their sentences.

Commenting on the report, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov expressed deep concern about the scale and extent of the use of the death penalty in Iraq.

“The large numbers of people who are sentenced to death in Iraq is alarming, especially since many of these convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice,” Mladenov said in a statement. “I call upon the Government of Iraq to reconsider its position on the imposition of the death penalty.”

For his part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Ben Al-Hussein urged the new Iraqi Government to make a commitment to address the serious shortcomings in the criminal justice system in the country.

The new Government in Iraq is facing many serious security challenges, and it is more urgent than ever that the rule of law is reinforced and firmly entrenched in the country, Mr. Zeid said.

Mladenov and Ibn-Al-Hussein jointly called on the Government of Iraq to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition, in line with UN General Assembly resolutions.

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