Adding to the injustice, the authorities have paraded detainees before press conferences or arranged for their “confessions” to be broadcast on local television in advance of their trials or trial verdicts in gross breach of the presumption of innocence and of the right of every accused to receive a fair trial.
The death penalty was suspended after the 2003 invasion but quickly restored by the first Iraqi government on coming to power, and executions resumed in 2005.
Since then, at least 447 prisoners have been executed, including Saddam Hussein, some of his main associates, and alleged members of armed groups.
Hundreds of prisoners await execution on death row. Iraq, where 129 prisoners were hanged in 2012, is now one of the world’s leading executioners.
“Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale,” said Hadj Sahraoui, “It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture.
“It is high time that the Iraqi authorities end this appalling cycle of abuse and declare a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.”
Since December, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in areas where Sunni Muslims are in the majority, to protest against arbitrary detention, abuses of detainees, the use of the anti-terror law, and an end to what they see as government discrimination against the Sunni population.
Meanwhile, Sunni armed groups continue to attack not only government targets but Shi’a civilians, including religious pilgrims.
Although the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in north-east Iraq has remained largely free of the violence that has engulfed the rest of the country, its two ruling Kurdish political parties maintain a tight grip on power and incidents of detainee abuses have also been reported.