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SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES AND LAWYERS CALLS FOR HALT IN APPLICATION OF DEATH PENALTY IN IRAQ

19 June 2007

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, issued the following statement today:

"In light of the continued application of the death penalty in Iraq following procedurally flawed legal processes, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers deems it necessary to reiterate his concerns in this regard, as expressed earlier in his press statements of 16 March 2007, 28 December 2006 and of 24 January 2007.

In those statements, the Special Rapporteur described the most serious shortcomings of the procedure followed by Iraqi High Tribunal. He notably referred to the lack of observance of the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal and of the right to adequate defense, as stipulated inter alia in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The violence, threats and intimidation to which judges and lawyers are subjected in the country, illustrated amongst others by the very high number of assassinations of defense lawyers in the country, greatly contribute to impinge on their independence.

In this context, the Special Rapporteur urges the Iraqi Government to stop carrying out death sentences imposed following trials conducted in violation of international human rights standards and principles, including the death sentence against Mahmoud Sa’eed who has confessed having participated to the deadly attack against the headquarters of the United Nations in Baghdad in August 2003, where Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, and a number of other UN staff members have been killed.

The application of the death penalty, beyond its illegality under circumstances where strict due process standards have not been followed, also attempts to the right to the truth of the victims and their families, notably the victims of the Saddam Hussein regime. In the present case, it would also deprive the families of the victims of the attack to the UN headquarters in Baghdad of the only information they could have on those tragic events.