by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Oct 10, 2012
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Iraq saying the country had emerged as a leading user of capital punishment in the region.
Despite repeated criticism Iraq has executed 119 people so far this year -- including 23 since last Thursday -- a significant jump from 62 executions carried out last year, the New York-based watchdog said.
The executions are "making the country a leading user of the death penalty in the region," said HRW.
"If it continues at this rate, Iraq will soon be the third most prolific user of the death penalty in the world," it warned. Rights groups say China and Iran are the leading users of the death penalty in the world.
In a statement marking World Day Against the Death Penalty, HRW also denounced the lack of transparency in the Iraqi judicial system.
"Serious questions about whether Iraq's justice system meets international fair trial standards highlight the urgent need for a moratorium on capital punishment," it said.
"The Iraqi authorities' insistence on carrying out this outrageous string of executions, while unwilling to reveal all but the barest of information, underlines the opaque and troubling nature of Iraq's justice system," added HRW deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Joe Stork.
He also called for more transparency concerning death row inmates.
"The government should disclose the identities, locations, and status of all prisoners on death row, the crimes for which they have been convicted, the evidence supporting their conviction, and details of any impending executions," Stork said.
"Rather than executing people, Iraq should focus on reforming its security and judicial systems to protect its citizens from increasing human rights violations."
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on Baghdad in January to adopt a death penalty moratorium while last week France said it was "concerned" about the increasing use of executions in Iraq.
The HRW said Iraq must put an immediate stay on pending death sentences.
"The government of Iraq should place an immediate stay on all pending death sentences and issue a public and permanent moratorium on any use of the death penalty or abolish the death penalty by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
HRW also called for probes into all executions carried out last year.
Britain's embassy in Baghdad also urged Iraq to halt executions.
"We believe that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity. There is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value," the embassy said in a statement.
"For this reason, we will be supporting the resolution at the UN General Assembly later this year calling for a moratorium on the death penalty and urge all other countries, including Iraq, to do the same."
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century
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