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Death Row / Iraq: UN expert strongly condemns ongoing executions, reiterates call to halt them

Executions in Iraq

30 August 2012

GENEVA (30 August 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, strongly condemned last Monday’s execution of 21 individuals within one day in Iraq, including three women. Two days later, yet again, another five persons were reported to have been executed, bringing the number of individuals executed to at least 96 since 1 January 2012.

“I am appalled about the level of executions in Iraq. I deeply deplore the executions carried out this week, and am particularly alarmed about continuing reports of individuals who remain at risk of execution,” said Mr. Heyns. “I urge the Government of Iraq to halt immediately the executions.”

“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” said the UN expert. He recalled the concerns he previously expressed to the Government of Iraq about the imposition of the death penalty, including the need for transparency, stringent respect of due process and fair trial guarantees, and application only in respect of the most serious crimes - namely intentional killing.

“The death penalty may only be imposed, in countries that still have this form of punishment, if a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements are met,” the Special Rapporteur underscored, and noted that the continued lack of transparency about the implementation of the death penalty in Iraq, and the country's recent record, raises serious concerns about the question of what to expect in the future.

“The arbitrary killing of people, also when it is committed behind a smokescreen of flawed legal processes, is not solely a matter of domestic concern,” he said. “Iraq should take note that the international community will take strong exception to a continuation of its flagrant disregard of the norms applicable to the protection of the right to life.”

A month ago, the human rights expert called on the Government of Iraq to halt executions and review all death row cases, as well as disclose information on the number of executions carried out, the identity of death row prisoners, the charges and judicial proceedings brought against them, and the outcome of the review of their cases.

The Special Rapporteur will present his next report to the United Nations General Assembly on major issues relating to the imposition of the death penalty in October this year.

(*) Check: “UN expert calls for immediate halt to executions and surrounding secrecy in Iraq” (27 July 2012):


The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Mr. Heyns’ research interests include international human rights law and human rights law in Africa. Learn more, log on to:

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