New York, NY (BBN) – The United Nations human rights chief has said she was shocked at reports that 34 people were executed in Iraq in a single day last week and called on the country to institute an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
“Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a press statement on Tuesday.
“Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure,” she added.
The 34 individuals, including two women, were executed on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
The total number of individuals sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004 is believed to stand at more than 1,200. The total number actually executed since then is not known, although at least 63 individuals are thought to have been executed in the past two months alone.
The death penalty can be imposed in Iraq for around 48 crimes, including a number of non-fatal crimes such as – under certain circumstances – damage to public property.
“Most disturbingly,” said Ms. Pillay, “we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”
She called on the Government to implement an immediate moratorium on the institution of death penalty, noting that around 150 countries have now either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, or introduced a moratorium.
The High Commissioner also urged the Government “to halt all executions and, as a matter of urgency, review the cases of those individuals currently on death row.”
BBN/SSR/AD-25Jan12-10:56 am (BST)