Iraq: Execution of 21 people and fears terrorism is used as a pretext to “liquidate” political opponents


GENEVA –  Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties is following, with increasing concern, reports on the implementation of the death sentence against 21  convicted of “terrorism” in Nasiriya Central Prison by the Iraqi authorities, on Monday, November 16, 2020.

GCRL expresses its fear that the fight against terrorism will be used as a pretext to liquidate political opponents in violation of the rules of international law and human rights principles amid a lack of fair trial guarantees.

The death sentence was carried out against the convicts – who are from the governorates of Mosul, Anbar, Baghdad, Basra, and Dhi Qar – under  Article 4 of the Iraqi Anti-Terrorism Law.

Geneva Council notes that Article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law issued in 2005 is controversial, as it allows, in the name of combating terrorism, to execute about 50 acts, kidnapping, and murder, and it also includes other actions such as damaging public facilities and property, which are general descriptions subject to many jurisprudence.

The implementation of sentences for large numbers of people raises concerns amid the continued increase in executions, which rose from about 52 in 2018 to at least 100 in 2019. It is estimated that there are about 6 thousand people under sentence of death, most of them are on “terrorism-related charges “, which are overly broad and vague and often used as a pretext to crush and liquidate opponents.

GCRL believes that the expansion of death sentences in an unstable environment and a political system based on sectarianism, which largely lacks an independent judicial system, increases fears of retaliatory sentences. The weakness of the legal system could lead to the risk of grave errors in imposing the death sentences which cannot be reversed against persons who may be found to be innocent later.

Geneva Council calls on the Iraqi authorities to stop the implementation of death sentences, to address weaknesses and defects in the justice system, including reviewing the anti-terrorism law and to ensure that criminal investigations and judicial procedures in cases of death sentences comply with international and constitutional guarantees of due process and standards for fair trials.

It also calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations special procedures, to intervene to ensure that Iraq adheres to international covenants and human rights principles. The Council recalls that, since 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of resolutions calling on countries that still maintain the death penalty to “a moratorium on executions in preparation for the abolition of the death penalty.”

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