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UN experts warn 50 people face possible executions in Iraq after unfair trials

After 21 executions this week, UN experts urge Baghdad to halt mass capital punishment
The statement by UN experts noted that there are currently some 4,000 prisoners slated for execution.
Statement by UN experts notes there are currently about 4,000 prisoners slated for execution (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

UN human rights experts have said 50 Iraqi prisoners face possible execution next week following convictions on terrorism-related crimes in unfair trials.

"We strongly urge the Iraqi Government to respect its international legal obligations and to immediately halt further plans to execute prisoners," the experts said in a joint statement on Friday.

Last month, Iraqi authorities executed 21 death row prisoners, followed by another 21 people on Monday at the Nasiriya Central Prison.

The wave of executions is a part of what UN rights experts believe to be a plan to execute all those held on death row.

The statement noted that there are currently about 4,000 prisoners slated for execution, and hundreds of capital punishment orders have been signed off.

Since declaring the Islamic State (IS) defeated in late 2017, Iraq has condemned hundreds of its citizens to death for membership in the group.

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"Trials under the Anti-Terrorism Law have been marked with alarming irregularities," the UN experts said.

"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."

Many of the individuals were sentenced under the Iraqi Anti-Terrorism Law of 2005, which has been criticised for its vague and overly broad definition of terrorism.

"Any death sentence carried out following an unfair trial or on the basis of an ambiguous law, amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life," the experts said.

"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."

On Thursday, the European Union called on Iraq to abolish its death penalty entirely, saying it "represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity".

"The European Union therefore calls on Iraqi authorities to refrain from any future executions, to declare and maintain a de facto moratorium on the use of capital punishment, and to pursue a consistent policy towards the abolition of the death penalty in the country," it said in a statement.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused Iraq's justice system of corruption, of carrying out rushed trials using circumstantial evidence, and of failing to allow the accused a proper defence or access to lawyers.

Iraq ranks fifth among countries that carry out the most death sentences, according to Amnesty International, which documented 100 executions in the country in 2019.