News / Middle East

UN Slams Iraq Over Prisoner Executions

Lisa Schlein
— The United Nations human rights office is condemning the execution of at least 42 people in Iraq on terrorism charges over the past two days and calling on the Iraqi government to halt executions. 

After Iraq hung 42 prisoners this week on terrorism charges, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says the justice system in Iraq is too seriously flawed to apply the death penalty.

The U.N. said the latest executions bring to 140 the number of people put to death in Iraq this year -- compared to 129 executions all of 2012.

Pillay's spokesman, Rupert Colville, said it is alarming to see the Iraqi courts order dozens of executions at a time.  “Large-scale executions of the sort that have been carried out on a number of occasions over the past two years in Iraq are not only obscene and inhuman, they are most probably in contravention of international law," he said. "They are also undermining efforts to build a more stable, less violent society in Iraq.  The mass execution carried out over the past two days is particularly perverse given that yesterday was World Day Against the Death Penalty.” 

Iraq's justice ministry said on Thursday that the 42 executed this week, including one woman, were convicted of "terrorist crimes, killing dozens of innocents in addition to other crimes aimed at destabilizing the country, causing chaos and spreading horror."

Colville tells VOA that U.N. rights officials have raised concerns with the Iraqi government regarding the harsh sentences. “They certainly have registered the strong criticisms we have made after previous mass executions of this type.  I think this is the third public statement we have made on this issue.  It shows the importance we place on it.  And, the high commissioner will be engaging directly with the Iraqi authorities on this in the coming days,” he said. 

Colville said some 900 people are believed to be on death row in Iraq and Pillay is calling on Iraqi authorities to review and commute their sentences.

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