UN urges Iraq to implement a moratorium on executions

GENEVA / BAGHDAD 6 May 2009 – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on Wednesday expressed their concern at the resumption of the execution of the death penalty in Iraq.

Twelve people were hanged in Baghdad on Sunday, 3 May. It is believed a further 115 prisoners are at risk of being executed in the near future.

OHCHR and UNAMI are concerned that, at present, the Iraqi justice system does not guarantee sufficient fair trial procedures in accordance with Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a state party. It is of particular concern that the prohibition of the use of evidence – including confessions – gathered under duress or torture, and the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt, are often violated in Iraq, rendering the imposition of the death penalty arbitrary.

Under international law, the death penalty may only be applied in a very strictly defined set of circumstances. One of these is that a death sentence can only be imposed after a fair trial in which the minimum standards laid down by Article 14 of the Covenant have been respected. An execution arising from a trial at which these standards have not been observed constitutes a violation of the right to life under Article 6 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The OHCHR advocates the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances and has recommended that the Iraqi Government consider formally establishing a moratorium on the death penalty pending a thorough review of the Iraqi Penal Code and the Law on Criminal Proceedings, in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 62/149. It is a matter of regret that, after a year and half of non-application of the death penalty, executions have resumed.

OHCHR and UNAMI stand ready to assist the Government of Iraq in reviewing relevant domestic legislation in the light of international standards and Iraq’s international obligations.

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN urges Iraq to implement a moratorium on executions

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