“The increasing use of the death penalty in Iraq will only fuel more violence as many of those executed are often convicted after grossly unfair trials,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“The only way to deal effectively with the security threats faced by the country is for the Iraqi authorities to address their deeply flawed justice system, in which ‘confessions’ extracted under torture are used as evidence in court and the execution of prisoners is routine.”
On 21 January the Iraqi Ministry of Justice issued a statement confirming that the authorities had executed 26 men on Sunday, two days earlier. One of these was Adel al-Mashehadani, known to have carried out a number of sectarian attacks, according to the Justice Ministry.
Amnesty International has confirmed through independent sources that at least 12 further men were also executed.
The organization also learnt that on the same day, the presidency’s office ratified around 200 cases of people sentenced to death, paving the way for their executions to be carried out. In Iraq, all judicially confirmed death sentences need to be ratified by the presidency before they can be implemented.
Most of those executed on Sunday, all of them Iraqi men, were convicted on charges of terrorism, under the draconian 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law.
Amnesty International fears that the Iraqi authorities may be using the current violence in al-Anbar governorate to speed up executions to demonstrate their efforts to protect civilians against terrorism and attacks by armed groups.
The executions come less than a week after the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the Iraqi authorities to put a moratorium on executions, during a visit to Iraq.
The call was strongly rejected by Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who said in a joint press conference that the authorities “do not believe that the rights of someone who kills people must be respected”.