BAGHDAD (BNO NEWS) — More than 30 people were executed by Iraqi authorities on Thursday following their conviction for various crimes, the United Nations reported on Tuesday. It is the largest number of confirmed executions within a single day in years.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was shocked to learn that 34 people, including two women, were executed in Iraq on Thursday. “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,” she said.
The United Nations believes at least 1,200 people have been sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004, but the government is reluctant to release official figures. The UN said at least 63 people are thought to have been executed since mid-November of last year.
“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,” Pillay said about Thursday’s executions. Iraq lists 48 crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed, including non-fatal crimes such as damage to 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.”
Tuesday’s report comes just two days after Human Rights Watch warned that Iraq risks falling back towards authoritarian rule amid allegations that security forces have tortured detainees at a secret prison, cracked down on freedom of expression and attacked peaceful protesters as well as journalists. Executions were commonly used by the government of Saddam Hussein.
The opposition in Iraq has compared Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to a dictator as he has failed to appoint defense and interior ministers, giving him full control over those ministries. al-Maliki has also failed to appoint a minister of National Security Affairs.