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Press briefing notes on ISIL/Iraq and Death penalty in SE Asia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 20 January 2015

(1) ISIL / Iraq

ISIL has established unlawful, so-called “shari’a courts” in the territory under its control that have been meting out cruel and inhuman punishments to men, women and children accused of violating the group’s extremist interpretations of Islamic shari’a law or for suspected disloyalty.

Last week, ISIL posted photos on the web of two men being “crucified” after they were accused of banditry. The men were hung up by their arms and then shot dead. Photos were also posted of a woman being stoned to death, allegedly for adultery. The ruthless murder of two men, who were thrown off the top of a building after having been accused of homosexual acts by a so-called court in Mosul, is another terrible example of the kind of monstrous disregard for human life that characterises ISIL’s reign of terror over areas of Iraq that are under the group’s control.

We have received numerous other reports of women who have been executed by ISIL in Mosul and other areas under the group’s control, often immediately following sentences passed by its so-called “shari’a courts”. Educated, professional women, particularly women who have run as candidates in elections for public office seem to be particularly at risk. In just the first two weeks of this year, reports indicate that three female lawyers were executed.

Other civilians who are suspected of violating ISIL’s rules, or who are suspected of supporting the Government of Iraq, have also been victims. Four doctors were recently killed in central Mosul, allegedly after refusing to treat ISIL fighters. On 1 January, ISIL reportedly executed 15 civilians from the Jumaili Sunni Arab tribe in al-Shihabi area, Garma district, Falluja. They were apparently shot dead in front of a large crowd for their suspected cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces. In another incident, on 9 January, ISIL executed at least 14 men in a public square in Dour, north of Tikrit, for refusing to pledge allegiance to it.

We are continuing to document human rights abuses and violations taking place in Iraq and will present a report to the Human Rights Council in March.

(2) Death penalty in SE Asia

We are concerned about the continued use of the death penalty for drug crimes in parts of South East Asia. Last Sunday, six people convicted of drug offences were executed in Indonesia in spite of several national and international appeals. Sixty others remain on death row for drug-related offences. We are particularly concerned about the respect for due process in such cases after the President reportedly stated that he will reject all requests for clemency for drug-related crimes.

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, "anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence." We urge the Indonesian authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and to conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence.

Today, a court in Vietnam also reportedly sentenced eight people, including two women, to death for heroin trafficking. We call on Vietnam not to carry out these executions, to ensure judicial review of the sentences, and to consider elimination of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

In South East Asia, drug-related crimes are punishable by death in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. While these crimes are also punishable by death in Brunei Darussalam, the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic and Myanmar, these three countries are abolitionist in practice and have not carried out executions since 1957, 1989 and 1988, respectively.

According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment can only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing. Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships do not fall under the threshold of "most serious crimes” required under international law for application of the death penalty.


For more information or media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org).

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