Hundreds of executions pending after the Baghdad attack

Hundreds of executions pending after the Baghdad attack
Hundreds of executions pending after the Baghdad attack

Human rights defenders are worried about a possible resurgence of executions in Iraq, the presidency having given pledges to Iraqis demanding strong acts after the bloody attack in Baghdad.

An official within the presidency reaffirmed on Sunday that “more than 340 execution orders (…) for criminal or terrorist acts” have been ratified but not implemented so far, which could result in any time being hangings in the country, one of the most death penalty cases in the world.

These ratifications were overwhelmingly the result of previous presidents but, according to this official speaking on condition of anonymity, they “continued” under the mandate started in 2018 of Barham Saleh – known to be in a personal capacity against the sentence of death.

If Iraq carried out in 2019 more than one in seven executions in the world – that is to say 100 convicts hanged in a year -, it is customary to executions in the wake of an attack that shocked public opinion.

Former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi struck hard in June 2018 by executing thirteen jihadists and publishing photos of the hangings for the first time, to appease criticism of his lack of firmness after the assassination of eight civilians by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

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– “Limited options” –

An attack claimed by the jihadist group killed 32 people on Thursday in a busy market in Baghdad, causing an unprecedented shock among a population accustomed to relative tranquility since the military defeat of ISIS at the end of 2017 in Iraq.

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The presidency’s announcement is therefore, notes Belkis Wille of Human Rights Watch, further proof that “the death penalty is a political tool”.

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The leaders use these kinds of announcements to tell people that they are acting for them, without taking into account the fact that the trials are flawed,” she told AFP.

In fact, Mr. Saleh has been accused on social networks since the attack on Thursday of “not enforcing sentences” against jihadist prisoners “who promise assaults on prisons”.

Caught between public opinion demanding revenge and political, security and judicial apparatuses incapable of stopping the jihadist wave, “Iraq still finds itself with limited options,” Ali Bayati, member of the Governmental Commission for human rights.

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The death penalty is legal and we do not have a de-radicalization center, so some jihadists are turning prisons into recruitment centers,” said Mr. Bayati.

“But indeed, we do not have clear and transparent guarantees in the process of investigations and trials and human rights organizations are not allowed to play their role,” he continues.

– “Arbitrary deprivation of life” –

For UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet there are “frequent violations of fair trial rights in Iraq, ineffective legal representation, over-reliance on confessions and numerous accusations of torture and ill-treatment “. So the application of the death penalty is rather “an arbitrary deprivation of life by the state”, she said at the end of 2020.

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The international community campaigned in November 2020 after the execution of 21 convicts, almost all of “terrorism”, as information circulated about a possible accelerated schedule of executions.

No executions have been reported since, but not all have been officially announced.

In 2020, AFP learned of around thirty executions. Iraq is the fourth most executing country in the world behind China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.

For several years, Iraqi courts have ordered hundreds of death sentences and life sentences because the Penal Code provides for a sentence to death for anyone who has joined “a terrorist group”, whether or not the accused fought in it. its ranks.

So far, none of the IS foreigners sentenced to death have been hanged, but eleven French people and one Belgian are currently awaiting execution in Iraq.

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