UN calls on Iraq to halt executions

6 May 2009

In the wake of this weekend’s executions of a dozen convicted criminals in Iraq, the United Nations urged the Government to stop the use of the death penalty, at least until fair trials can be guaranteed.

Iraq has resumed the use of the death penalty after a year and half hiatus by hanging 12 people in Baghdad on Sunday and another 115 are believed to be on death row, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

OHCHR and UNAMI voiced concern that the current Iraqi justice system does not guarantee sufficient fair trial procedures in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a State party.

In a news release issued today, they said they are particularly disturbed by courts allowing evidence – including confessions – gathered under duress or torture. In addition, the right not to testify against oneself or to confess guilt is often violated in Iraq, rendering the imposition of the death penalty arbitrary.

Under international law, the death penalty may only be applied in a very strictly defined set of circumstances, including a fair trial in which the minimum standards laid down by Article 14 of the Covenant have been respected.

OHCHR argues for the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances and has recommended that the Iraqi Government consider formally establishing a moratorium on the death penalty pending a thorough review of its penal code and law on criminal proceedings.


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