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Iraq: at least 13 executed in one day

At least 13 men put to death on 22 April in Nasiriyah Central Prison, with two executed even after vital casefiles were lost

As many as 150 are at imminent risk of execution after president reportedly ratified their death sentences, with more than 8,000 on death row in total

‘Iraq’s recent executions are alarming and disheartening’ - Razaw Salihy

At least 13 people in Iraq have been executed on a single day this week, said Amnesty International, as the organisation called on the Iraqi authorities to halt all further executions.

On 22 April, at least 13 men were put to death in Nasiriyah Central Prison, in the southern governorate of Thi Qar, following their conviction on overly-broad and vague terrorism charges.

Amnesty is concerned that many more people may have been executed in secret amid a disturbing lack of transparency regarding executions in Iraq in recent months. 

Security sources previously confirmed to the media the execution of 13 men on 25 December, which were the first recorded mass execution in the country since November 2020. Activists and lawyers who represent prisoners on death row have told Amnesty that scores more have been executed since 10 April, with the authorities reportedly giving no advance notice to either the prisoners or their families and lawyers. 

Of the men executed on 22 April, 11 were convicted on the basis of their alleged affiliation to ISIS, while the lawyer for the two others told Amnesty they were convicted of terrorism-related offences after a grossly unfair trial and had been detained since 2008. The lawyer and relatives of the two men said they were tortured and forced to sign documents which they were prevented from reading. The lawyer said a judge later informed them that the documents were confessions and sentenced them to death. The men had applied for a retrial due to allegations that their confessions were obtained under torture. Amnesty examined documents issued in 2020 by the judicial committee in charge of reviewing these requests, which stated that a review of the cases could not be carried out as per the law because casefiles had been lost. 

“They were tortured to ‘confess’ and the authorities want to brand them as terrorists. They [the authorities] lost their files and executed them like they do not matter,” their lawyer told Amnesty.  

Razaw Salihy, Amnesty International’s Iraq researcher, said:

“Iraq’s recent executions are alarming and disheartening. 

“The fact that two of those executed may have been denied the opportunity of a fair trial and did not have their cases reviewed because their casefiles were lost is utterly callous and outrageous. 

“For years, a legacy of human rights violations and abuses have plagued Iraq’s justice system, landing thousands on death row after grossly unfair trials.

"Executions carried out after trials that don’t meet international human rights standards may amount to arbitrary deprivation of life. 

“The Iraqi government must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and work towards abolishing the death penalty entirely.”

150 at imminent risk of execution

Two lawyers told Amnesty that as many as 150 people are at imminent risk of execution after President Abdul Latif Rashid reportedly ratified their death sentences. According to official court documents seen by Amnesty, on 22 October 2023 the Federal Appeals Court sought the ratification of the death sentences of 51 people from the office of the presidency. More than 8,000 prisoners are believed to be on death row in Iraq. Information available to Amnesty indicates that an unspecified number of prisoners were executed on 6 January. In addition, an activist told Amnesty that the family member of a prisoner on death row at Nasiriyah said that guards removed at least 12 prisoners from their cells in mid-April and never brought them back, and that guards later told cell mates to help themselves to the belongings of the men that were taken. Amnesty is extremely concerned that those men have been executed. 

Unfair trials 

Amnesty has repeatedly documented serious failings in Iraq’s judicial processes that deny prisoners a fair trial. Iraq’s courts have routinely accepted torture-tainted “confessions” as evidence and sentenced people to death based on those confessions, and they have routinely failed to investigate allegations of torture. Defendants are either denied legal representation or given a court-appointed lawyer whom they can’t meet privately. Thousands have been convicted of broad and vaguely-worded terrorism-related offences. Amnesty has also documented grave concerns regarding the overcrowded and inhumane conditions of detention in Nasiriyah Central Prison where those on death row are held, as well as allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, and denial of medical care. There have been scores of deaths in custody at the prison which lawyers and relatives of those on death row told Amnesty are a result of those conditions. 

On 21 February, Amnesty sent letters to the office of the President of Iraq and the Ministry of Justice requesting information about the number of death sentences ratified, the process of ratification, the number of executions, as well as measures taken to guarantee the basic rights of those facing execution, including due notice to prisoners, their families and their lawyers prior to execution. However, Amnesty has yet to receive a response. 

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