Hang em by the score: executions in Iraq

It was going to get better when they invaded Iraq – and in one way, for a while, it did.

Say what you like about the US-led invasion of Iraq (and it certainly wreaked havoc in many, many ways), but at least the Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty after they toppled Saddam Hussein.

Ok, let’s be absolutely clear. I’m not saying that getting rid of the death penalty for a year or so in any way “compensates” for Abu Ghraib, thousands of civilians deaths and injuries, the cavalier (and sometimes lethal) behaviour of coalition soldiers with regard to Iraqi civilians, and the unleashing of a tidal wave of sectarian violence. But on this issue (ironic, given the USA’s own deluded love affair with capital punishment) I reckon the Americans who were running the CPA rightly decided that having the courts handing out death penalties in a totally shell-shocked country was not very sensible.

They might have got a lot else wrong, but on this issue Iraq’s temporary post-Saddam rulers were, as I say, dead right.

That’s why it’s so disappointing that Iraq has since veered back to a knee-jerk use of the death penalty. Since they brought it back in August 2004, the Iraqi authorities have executed over 150 people and sentenced hundreds more to death (the real figures could be a lot higher as the government doesn’t even bother publishing statistics). Read a full Amnesty report on the subject here (and look out for a full round-up of the death penalty globally in a new Amnesty report out on 24 March).

There’s going to be a welter of media coverage of the six-year “anniversary” of the Iraq war in the next few days (most of it grim). What it may very well miss out though, is this story of Iraq’s return to the hangman.

The sickening and squalid spectacle of Saddam’s own execution temporarily focused minds on what executions Baghdad-style might be like – but not for long.

Why do I mention all this? Well this week Iraq is set to start executing the first of 128 people who have just had their executions confirmed. (“We’d just like to confirm that yes, you are going to be executed.”)

Like that scene in the Albert Pierrepoint film where Timothy Spall goes to Germany to hang Nazis en masse, the condemned Iraqis are going to be hanged in batches of 20 at a time. Please take action to try to stop it here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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