Iraqi authorities have upheld death sentences for up to 196 prisoners in Andar province, according to independent United Nations human rights expert today.
Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns says the potential execution of up to 196 prisoners in Iraq’s Anbar province is an “extremely disturbing” development.
“It is extremely disturbing that up to 196 individuals may be at imminent risk of execution, with a serious lack of public information on the cases.” – Mr. Heyns
Reports say Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has reportedly announced that the Court of Cassation has upheld the death sentences in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also says it is unclear whether any of these sentences have yet been ratified by the Iraqi Presidential Council.
“The lives of too many individuals are at stake.” -Mr. Heyns
The UN representative urges the Iraqi Government to immediately halt executions and review all death row cases.
The expert cited that death penalty may only be imposed in countries that still have this form of punishment.
In addition, Mr. Heyns called on the Government to disclose information on the number of executions carried out, the identity of death row prisoners, the charges and judicial proceedings against them, and the outcome of the review of their cases.
He says maintaining secrecy over executions undermines public scrutiny and may lead the international community to conclude that these are being imposed in violation of international law.
In January this year, United Nations human rights Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has described the execution of 34 people in Iraq as ‘shocking’ news.
Iraq’s execution included two women. All 34 executions occurred on a single day for crimes described as terrorism-related offenses.
Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Iraq to institute an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
She noted that given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure,” she added.
The 34 individuals were executed on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes.
The total number of individuals sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004 is believed to stand at more than 1,200. The total number actually executed since then is not known, although at least 63 individuals are thought to have been executed in the past two months alone (since 16 November). There are around 48 crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, including a number of non-fatal crimes such as-under certain circumstances-damage to public property.
Iraq’s current system of death penalty and its far-reaching coverage of offenses that are subject to death penalty creates doubt on the due process and fairness of trials in the country.