Death Penalty Outrage - Iraqi Style

September 2, 2009

On Monday, Amnesty International release a report on the death penalty in Iraq, pointing out that at least 1,000 people are now on death row in Iraq, and 150 of them have exhausted all appeals and could be hanged at any time.  The report tells a familiar tale, of how combining a hugely flawed criminal justice system with capital punishment leads for major injustices.  One of the focuses of the Amnesty report, and a focus of the CNN report above, is the case of Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah, who may face execution for the killing of three family members despite having been severely beaten into confessing to the crime.

When Saddam Hussein was in power, his government carried out executions “on a very large scale”, both judicially and extra-judicially.  Ironically, with the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Interim Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head Paul Bremer (remember him?) imposed a moratorium on executions, and it was only after the new Iraqi government took power that executions restarted.  This included, in December 2006, the execution of Saddam Hussein himself. 

Iraq has already executed many people this year (executions sometimes take place in secret, so the exact number is not known).  It is known that 12 people were executed on May 3, and 19 more were executed on June 10.  Although Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is personally opposed to the death penalty, he delegates decisions on Presidential pardons to his deputies who have no such qualms. With its rapidly expanding death row and the large numbers now out of legal options, the number of hangings could soon increase exponentially.