UN independent expert calls for death penalties to cease in Iraq

19 June 2007 –

Citing Iraq’s “procedurally flawed legal processes,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers today called on the country to halt the application of the death penalty.

According to a statement, Leandro Despouy urged “the Iraqi Government to stop carrying out death sentences imposed following trials conducted in violation of international human rights standards and principles.”

Reiterating several recent statements, Mr. Despouy said that the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal as well as the right to an adequate defense had been denied in trials conducted by the Iraqi High Tribunal.

Such rights, he noted, are stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The violence, threats and intimidation to which judges and lawyers are subjected in the country, illustrated amongst others by the very high number of assassinations of defence lawyers in the country, greatly contribute to impinge on their independence,” the Special Rapporteur added.

He appealed to the Government to not carry out the death sentence against Mahmoud Sa’eed, who has confessed to having participated in the deadly August 2003 attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.

Mr. Despouy pointed out that in addition to the illegality of the death penalty in cases where strict due process standards have not been followed, the punishment also impedes the right to the truth of victims and their families, especially those impacted by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In the case of Mr. Sa’eed, his execution would “also deprive the families of the victims of the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad of the only information they could have on those tragic events,” he said.

Mr. Despouy acts in an independent personal capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council, established last year to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights.

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