AFP-BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq has executed 26 men convicted of "terrorism," the justice ministry said on Tuesday, despite widespread international condemnation of Iraq's extensive use of the death penalty.

"The justice ministry carried out the executions of 26 (men) convicted of crimes related to terrorism on Sunday," a statement said, adding that all of those put to death were Iraqis.

It said that the ministry would "continue to carry out sentences against those who have been condemned, after the final decision has been made", despite persistent international calls for Iraq to declare a moratorium on its use of capital punishment.

"All 26 who were executed carried out brutal terrorist crimes against the Iraqi people, and they were tried and condemned, and the verdict was approved by the presidency," Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari said.

Iraq executed at least 169 people last year, according to an Agence France-Presse tally based on statements from the justice ministry and reports from officials.

It was the highest figure since the US-led invasion of 2003, and placed it third in the world for the number of executions after only China and Iran.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq to halt executions on a visit to Baghdad this month, but was publicly rebuked by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who said the country does not "believe that the rights of someone who kills people must be respected."