EU calls on Iraqi government to halt executions

File – A hanging rope is pictured (AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The European Union on Thursday called on the Iraqi government to halt executions which it considers a “cruel and inhuman punishment”.

Iraq executed 21 convicted terrorists and murderers on Monday, the latest in a series of mass executions it has carried out since defeating Islamic State (ISIS).

Among those executed at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya were people involved in two suicide attacks that killed dozens of people in the northern town of Tal Afar, the Iraqi interior ministry said in a statement.

“The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the criminal actions for which they were sentenced,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“The European Union considers the death penalty a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime,” the statement read. “It represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity while any miscarriages of justice are irreversible.”

“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.”

Iraq has put hundreds of suspected jihadists on trial and carried out several mass executions since defeating ISIS militants in a 2014-2017 U.S.-backed military campaign.

Human rights groups have accused Iraqi and other regional forces of inconsistencies in the judicial process and flawed trials leading to unfair convictions. Iraq says its trials are fair.

Iraq ranks fifth among countries that carry out death sentences, according to Amnesty International, which documented 100 executions in the country in 2019. That amounts to one out of seven executions across the world last year.

On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet decried “deeply troubling” reports of the execution, warning that several hundred other prisoners in Iraq risked the same fate.

“I call on the Iraqi authorities to halt any further executions,” Bachelet said in a statement.

“I am deeply concerned about the fate of the several hundred prisoners who may be at imminent risk of execution in Iraq,” she added.

The Iraqi men from various provinces had all been convicted under a 2005 Counter-Terrorism Law, which carries the death penalty, AFP reported.

“Our assessment of the administration of justice in terrorism-related cases in Iraq has found frequent violations of fair trial rights,” Bachelet said.

She also complained that “ineffective legal representation, overreliance on confessions and frequent allegations of torture or ill-treatment” were common.

“In such circumstances, the implementation of the death penalty is of particular concern, and may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State,” she said.

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