Iraq: “Not just Saddam” warns Amnesty as execution figures soar in Iraq

Amnesty International today (3 January) warned the international community that the abhorrent pictures of Saddam Hussein’s execution are just the tip of the iceberg, as Iraq moves back towards a culture of widespread executions.

At least 54 people were executed by the Iraqi authorities in 2006, moving Iraq well up the ‘league table’ of known executions together with China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the USA.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“This is about a lot more than Saddam. The number of executions in Iraq is soaring and there is a real risk of a return to the days of widespread executions after unfair trials.

“Iraq had a chance to turn its back on the cruelty of the Saddam Hussein years and respect human rights, pursuing real justice with fair trials and humane punishment of those found guilty.

“But instead we are seeing a mounting death toll, not only in the streets but also in the name of ‘justice’.

“The recent footage of Saddam Hussein’s execution took people into the squalid world of the death chamber, but it was far from unique.

“The death penalty is always cruel, always inhuman, always wrong.”

Amnesty International is deeply concerned by the massive surge in executions in Iraq, despite calls by the international community for Iraq to abolish the death penalty. On 19 December 2006, the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office announced that a further 13 prisoners had been executed, meaning at least 60 people have been executed in Iraq since the authorities resumed executions in September 2005.

According to the government, the 13 men executed on 19 December had been convicted of murder, rape and torture. One was reported to have confessed to the killing of 10 people. However, the identities of those hanged have not been made public and the government gave no details of their trials, raising concern that at least some of them may have been sentenced after unfair trials.

Media reports stated that after the executions had been carried out the Iraqi authorities released a short film showing a group of men hooded and with their hands tied behind their backs - believed to be the 13 men prior to their execution.

Amnesty International is acutely aware of the grave security situation currently prevailing in Iraq and recognises the government’s responsibility to uphold the rule of law and ensure that those who commit murders and other crimes are brought to justice. But it reiterated that the Iraqi authorities must abide by their obligations under international law, including ensuring fair trials, and should not make recourse to the death penalty.

The death penalty, said Amnesty, is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Use of this most extreme penalty will provide no remedy for the grave human rights situation in Iraq and serves only to devalue further the right to life.

Tim Hancock added:

“Sentencing people to death gives an illusion of control amid the chaos of Iraq. But it is no more than an illusion.
“The Iraqi authorities should commute all death sentences and abolish the death penalty.”

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