Iraq: 1,000 people face execution

More than 1,000 people face execution in Iraq, said Amnesty International today (1 September), as it published a new report on the extensive imposition of death sentences in the country.

Some 150 of these prisoners have exhausted all means of appeal or clemency and are at immediate risk of death. The majority of the condemned (some 750, including 12 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights) are held by the Ministry of Justice, while several hundred are detained by the Interior Ministry. At least seven facing execution are held by the US military at Camp Cropper in Baghdad.

Ten female death row prisoners have recently been transferred to the al-Kadhimiya Prison in Baghdad, which suggests that their executions may be imminent. One of these, 27-year-old Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah, facing execution for murder, has alleged that she was tortured into making a false confession, including with electric shocks and beatings with a cable. She reportedly received a trial lasting less than two days, where one of her lawyers was ordered out of the court by the trial judge.

Amnesty has repeatedly expressed its concerns about trials conducted by criminal courts in Iraq, whose procedures fall short of international standards for fair trials.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

'The sheer number of people facing execution is Iraq is extremely alarming.

'When the Iraqi authorities brought the death penalty back in 2004 they claimed they needed capital punishment to curb widespread violence in the country. This was always a bogus argument - there’s no evidence that the death penalty ever provides an effective deterrent - and it has palpably failed to stem years’ of violence in Iraq.

'Iraq’s ramshackle justice system can barely cope with ordinary crimes never mind capital offences. Instead of sending hundreds of people to a grisly death at the end of a rope, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate moratorium.'

Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussain’s government in 2003 the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty, which had been widely used under Saddam Hussein’s government. However, the following year the new Iraqi government reintroduced capital punishment and since then it has widened the scope of the penalty.

As Amnesty’s report points out, use of the death penalty in Iraq is far from transparent. On 10 June, for example, 19 people - 18 men, one woman - were hanged, a fact that was never officially announced or reported. The deaths only became known after information later leaked out.

Meanwhile, in March the Iraqi authorities informed Amnesty of the fact that 128 people had had their death sentences confirmed; Amnesty also learnt that the executions were to be carried out in batches of 20 at a time. Two months later it was reported that 12 of the executions had gone ahead - though virtually no other information was ever made available.

Last year alone at least 285 people were sentenced to death in Iraq, and at least 34 executed. In 2007 at least 199 people were sentenced to death and 33 were executed, while in 2006 at least 65 people were put to death. However the actual figures could be much higher as there are no official statistics for the number of prisoners facing execution and the Iraqi media’s reporting of death sentences is erratic and incomplete.

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