Resumption of death penalty in Iraq sparks UN concern

14 December 2009 – The resumption of the death penalty in Iraq earlier this year is a source of great concern to the United Nations, according to the world body’s latest report covering the human rights situation in the country.

Iraqi officials have cited security conditions as a reason for the resumption of the executions, which had not been carried out since August 2007, this May, the new publication said.

“The secrecy surrounding the executions remained an additional issue of concern,” it noted.

Finding flaws in the administration of justice and violations of due process in criminal trials, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had called on the Government earlier this year to declare a moratorium on all executions.

“It is of particular concern that many persons are convicted on the basis of confessions often gathered under duress or torture, while their right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt is often violated,” the report said.

“Until these violations are addressed, the imposition of the death penalty by Iraqi courts will remain arbitrary and contrary to the international human rights standards.”

The number of people receiving capital sentences has risen, with 324 death sentences having been handed down by the High Judicial Council in the first half of 2009.

The first six months of this year was also characterized by further improvements in the security situation, but in spite of a drop in the number of attacks carried out, both indiscriminate and targeted killings continued, the publication said.

Reports indicate that the number of attacks against people based on their perceived sexual orientation is on the rise, while many cases of violence against women and “honour”-related homicides go unpunished.

“Significant progress remains to be achieved to fully restore the rule of law and to systematically address the issue of impunity,” the study underscored. “UNAMI has continuously stated that security in Iraq may not be sustainable unless significant steps are taken to uphold the rule of law and human rights and has continued to offer assistance to this end.”

The number of civilian casualties has fallen, with the death toll in May being the lowest recorded since 2003. But number of civilians killed doubled the following month.

“The UN reiterates that deliberate attacks against civilians are tantamount to crimes against humanity and violate the laws and customs applicable in armed conflict,” the report said. “The perpetrators should be brought to justice.”


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