Ratification of Numerous New Death Sentences Underscores Need for Iraq to End Executions

Press Release
December 18, 2012

Ratification of Numerous New Death Sentences Underscores Need for Iraq to End Executions

Contact: Anya Palkowski, apalkowski@aiusa.org, 212-633-4268

(New York) – Following the ratification of 28 death sentences in Iraq on Monday, December 17 by one of the Iraqi vice presidents, Amnesty International urged authorities to impose an immediate moratorium on executions as a first step towards death penalty abolition.

The 28 people were accused of terrorism-related offenses. Ratification is the last step in the judicial process, and they are at risk of imminent execution.

Earlier this month, it had been reported that about 40 death row prisoners were transferred to al-Kadhemiya Prison in Baghdad, where executions are carried out.

Iraq has executed at least 129 people in 2012, the highest number since 2005. As in previous years, hundreds were estimated to have been sentenced to death or had death sentences ratified by the courts.

“Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on ‘confessions’ obtained under torture,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. “Instead of carrying out executions, the Iraqi authorities should prioritize fixing its deeply flawed criminal justice system.”

On December 16, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and his son-in-law were sentenced to death in absentia for the fifth time for possession and use of weapons in a highly politicized trial by the Central Criminal Court. They have received four other death sentences on terrorism-related offenses.

Since the death penalty was reintroduced in Iraq in 2004, the death sentence and executions are being imposed and carried out extensively following proceedings that violate human rights standards. Many trials of those sentenced to death failed to meet international fair trial standards, and often make use of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture or other ill-treatment as evidence against the defendants.

Some Iraqi television stations continue to broadcast self-incriminating testimonies of detainees even before the opening of a trial, undermining the fundamental right of defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Last week, Amnesty International urged Iraqi authorities to quash death sentences against four men sentenced on December 3 in Anbar province, western Iraq, following the broadcast of ‘confessions’ given while reportedly being tortured in pre-trial detention.

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

More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.