The poor physical conditions of many of Iraq’s prisons remain of concern – many thousands of individuals awaiting trial are kept in conditions where their mental and physical health are at risk – despite the fact that they have not been convicted by a court of law and still enjoy the presumption of innocence.
While Iraqi law holds that confessions are not to be admitted by judges in trials where it is alleged that such confessions have been made under duress, or as a result of ill-treatment or torture, monitoring of court proceedings by the United Nations indicates that judges routinely accept such confessions without examination.
Unfortunately, such factors contribute to an environment where abuse and torture of detainees can take place, impairing the development of a culture wherein the rights of accused persons and those convicted of crimes, as guaranteed under international law and the Constitution of Iraq, are respected and protected. The same factors also mean there is a very real risk that on occasion innocent persons may be wrongly arrested and convicted for crimes they may not have committed, with the consequence that they may face years of imprisonment or more severe penalties.
Democracy can be judged by the quality of justice it dispenses to the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable. And Justice is no justice, and democracy does not exist, if innocent people are punished. In relation to this, it is said that the murder of an innocent man is to murder all of humanity. Sadly in Iraq there are few guarantees that innocent people on occasion may not have been wrongly convicted and have not been executed as a result. This is among the reasons that the United Nations continues to call on the Government of Iraq to implement a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty in accordance with relevant United Nations General Assembly resolutions. We would also urge the Government to embark on an official review of the use of the death penalty, including repeal of the 48 laws that still exist on the statute books for which the death penalty is mandated.