Last updated: 31 August, 2012

UN joins calls for Iraqi death penalty moratorium

The United Nations mission in Iraq on Friday joined a recent wave of calls for Baghdad to implement a moratorium on its use of the death penalty after the country executed 26 people this week.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) statement, which warned of more executions in the coming days, came after calls for a suspension from Britain, the European Union and rights group Amnesty International after Iraq carried out 21 executions on Monday, and then five more on Wednesday.

“UNAMI notes with concern that Iraq has once again implemented the death penalty,” the statement said. “UNAMI reiterates its call on the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on the implementation of all death sentences.”

It warned that unidentified “sources have indicated that more executions may be carried out in the coming days.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed shock earlier this year at the number of executions, criticising the lack of transparency in court proceedings and calling for an immediate suspension of the death penalty.

British junior foreign minister Alistair Burt in a statement on Thursday called on Baghdad “to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”

And London-based Amnesty International said on the same day that Iraq should stop its use of the death penalty and commute all death sentences, describing the executions as a “significant and worrying increase compared to the previous year.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made similar calls in a statement on Wednesday.

Iraq executed 21 people, including three women and one Saudi national, on Monday, and five more people, including a Syrian national, on Wednesday, a justice ministry spokesman said.

The 26 executions this week brought to at least 96 the number of people executed in Iraq this year, compared to 68 executions throughout 2011.

The country has carried out several other mass executions this year, including one in which 14 people were put to death on February 7, and another in which 17 were executed on January 31.