Iraq: 13 executed last Sunday despite unfair trial and torture concerns

At least 73 people executed in Iraq so far this year

Amnesty International has learnt that the Iraqi authorities executed 13 men last Sunday (22 September) despite grave concerns over the safety of the convictions of at least nine of those executed.

The executions were all carried out in Baghdad and take to at least 73 the total number of people executed by the Iraqi authorities so far this year.

In this case of nine of the 13, Amnesty has been able to confirm the names and that they were executed following death sentences imposed after unfair trials which included “confessions” allegedly extracted under torture. The nine men were among a group of 11 sentenced to death by the First Branch of Anbar Criminal Court in August 2010 after it convicted them under Iraq’s draconian 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law. The remaining two are reportedly still on death row. 

Amnesty had urged the Iraqi authorities not to carry out the executions of the nine men, and to investigate allegations that they were tortured to coerce them into making “confessions”.  In its assessment of the trial Amnesty examined copies of court documents, including the verdict and medical reports, and also interviewed relatives and lawyers. Last December Amnesty called on the Iraqi authorities to review their case, but never received a response.

The court trying them appears to have disregarded compelling medical evidence supporting these complaints and used “confessions” inadmissible as evidence under international law.  During the trial, several of the defendants alleged that interrogators had tortured them while they were secretly detained at the Directorates of Counter-Terrorism in Haditha and Hit. They said they were beaten, subjected to electric shocks and suspended by their arms until they agreed to “confess”. Some of the defendants reportedly showed the court marks on their bodies they said were caused by torture and submitted evidence from medical examinations in support of their allegations. Nevertheless, Iraq’s Court of Cassation upheld their death sentences in 2011.  

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“The Iraqi authorities have chosen to defy repeated calls not to execute prisoners and to rely on tainted ‘confessions’ obtained under torture.

“That a death sentence could be imposed after obviously grossly unfair trials beggars belief.

“We again urge the Iraqi authorities to declare a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty and to commute all death sentences. They must address the flaws in the Iraqi justice system, investigate claims of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, and, where applicable, grant re-trials in full compliance with fair trial standards.”

Amnesty opposes the death penalty - the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment - in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life.

Amnesty International recognises the grave threat that armed groups continue to pose to the public security and order and the rule of law in Iraq. Hundreds of people continue to be killed every month in violent attacks by armed groups across Iraq. Amnesty unreservedly condemns the gross human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law that armed groups have been committing. The Iraqi authorities have the duty and responsibility to bring perpetrators of serious human rights abuses to justice, without recourse to the death penalty. However, when doing so - the Iraqi authorities must comply at all times with Iraq’s obligations under international human rights law and protect the human rights of those they suspect or accuse of committing even the most heinous crimes.

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