UN: Alarming Rise in Use of Death Penalty

A report published Sunday by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documents the alarming rise in executions carried out by Iraq since the restoration of the death penalty in 2005.

The report documents that the number of executions carried out in Iraq rose substantially between 2005 and 2009. 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. Executions are often carried out in batches in Iraq – on one occasion in 2013, up to 34 individuals were executed in a single day.

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.

“UNAMI and OHCHR have repeatedly voiced concerns about observed weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system,” the report states. “Criminal investigations and judicial proceedings in death penalty cases frequently fail to adhere to international and constitutional guarantees of due process and fair trial standards.”

In over 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 nearly all cases, judges proceeded to convict the defendants and sentence them to death based solely, or substantially, on the weight of disputed confession evidence or the testimony of secret informants. Most defendants appeared in court unrepresented, and where the court appointed an attorney, no time was granted to the defendant to prepare adequately a defence.

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