The United Nations human rights chief today called on Iraq to move towards abolishing the death penalty, saying – in response to the latest periodic report on Iraq’s human rights record – that the rate of executions in the country this year “cannot be justified.”
“I would like to stress that, under international law, the death penalty is permitted in very limited circumstances, including after trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in her comments on the Report on Human Rights in Iraq: January to June 2012, released today.
“The number of executions so far in 2012, and the manner in which they have been carried out in large batches, is extremely dangerous, cannot be justified, and risks seriously undermining the partial and tentative progress on rule of law in Iraq outlined in this report,” she added, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Iraq, which retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes, executed 70 people in the first six months of this year, compared to 67 for the whole of 2011, and 18 in 2010, according to the 46-page report, produced by UNAMI – a UN political mission established by the UN Security Council in 2003 at the invitation of the Government of Iraq – in cooperation with OHCHR.
“I encourage the Iraqi Government to declare a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the near future,” Ms. Pillay said.
The human rights chief also called on the Iraqi authorities to address other “serious human rights violations” highlighted in the report, which, as with earlier reports, reflects information gathered by UNAMI from the mission’s on-site monitoring.
While the report noted the Iraqi Government had taken a “number of positive steps to address certain human rights concerns,” it said respect for human rights in the country “remains fragile as the country continues its transition from years of conflict and violence to peace and democracy.”
The study highlighted that many ordinary Iraqi women, children, disabled people and members of ethnic and religious groups continue to face varying degrees of discrimination in the full enjoyment of their basic rights, according to the joint news release.
Many Iraqis also still have only limited access to basic services, including healthcare, education, and employment, the release said, citing the report.
“Respect for human rights is at the basis of any democracy, and strong action needs to be taken by the Iraqi authorities to ensure that each and every person in this country can fully enjoy his or her fundamental rights – including social and economic rights,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler.
According to the report, violence remains of great concern in Iraq, with the number of civilians killed having slightly increased compared to the same six-month period in 2011.
The report found that 1,346 civilians were killed and 3,660 others wounded during the first six months of 2012. It also noted that, despite a decline in the overall number of incidents, the attacks were often more deadly, with a few attacks claiming scores of victims.
Iraqi Government initiatives welcomed in the report included “key legislative and institutional reforms,” according to the joint news release.
It named them as the appointment of the Commissioners to serve on Iraq’s first Independent High Commission for Human Rights, the ratification by Iraq of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the launch of a reorganization and rehabilitation programme for detention centres and prisons under the authority of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.