GENEVA – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday said she was shocked at reports that 34 individuals, including two women, were executed in Iraq on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes.
“Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day,” Pillay said.
“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.”
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.
“Most disturbingly,” said Pillay, “we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”
“I call on the Government of Iraq to implement an immediate moratorium on the institution of death penalty,” the High Commissioner said, noting that around 150 countries have now either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, or introduced a moratorium.
She pointed to UN General Assembly Resolution 62/149, adopted in 2007, and two subsequent resolutions, which call on UN Member States to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to future abolition and urged the Government of Iraq “to halt all executions and, as a matter of urgency, review the cases of those individuals currently on death row.”