UN concerned over mass executions and unfair trials in Iraq amid calls for an “immediate” halt to executions
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice, Geneva, November 21, 2020
A number of UN human rights experts expressed their concerns over reports that nearly 50 prisoners convicted of terrorism-related crimes were executed in Iraq on Monday, and urged the government to immediately halt all mass executions.
Rulings were issued through unfair trials:
The UN experts expressed their concerns about the trial procedures that resulted in those death sentences, due to its reliance on confessions extracted under torture in passing its verdicts.
Since October 2020, the Iraqi authorities began implementing executions against a number of prisoners at the Nasiriyah central prison (also known as al-Hoot prison), where 21 people were executed during the month of October, followed by another 21 on 16 November, which seems to be part of a broader plan aimed at carrying out all death sentences.
“We strongly urge the Iraqi Government to respect its international legal obligations and to immediately halt further plans to execute prisoners,” the experts said.
“Trials under the Anti-Terrorism Law have been marked with alarming irregularities,” the UN experts added. “Defendants have frequently been denied the most basic right to an adequate defence and their allegations of torture and ill-treatment during interrogations have not been investigated.”
Rulings are arbitrary deprivation of the right to life:
The experts concluded: “Any death sentence carried out following an unfair trial or on the basis of an ambiguous law, amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life… When carried out on a widespread and systematic basis, arbitrary executions may well amount to crimes against humanity and may entail universal criminal responsibility for any official involved in such acts.”
According to several reports, there are 4,000 prisoners, most of them charged with terrorism offences, awaiting execution in Iraq, amid UN assurances that hundreds of other executions were now imminent after their execution orders had been signed-off.
The Iraqi Anti-Terrorism Law No. 13 of 2005 raises many human rights concerns, including the vague and overly broad definition of the term terrorism.
Under the law, an individual could face trial on terrorism charges and be sentenced to death for having committed a nonviolent crime not intended to terrorise the population. In addition, no distinction is made, when issuing the punishment, between the different levels of participation, involvement and responsibility in terrorist acts and no assessment is made based on the severity of the act.