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UN rights expert condemns Iraqi use of death penalty

[JURIST] UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Leandro Despouy [official website] has issued a new report [text] criticizing the government of Iraq for its ongoing use of the death penalty [JURIST news archive]. In the report, Despouy specifically condemned the government for executing Iraqi prisoner Awraz Abdel Aziz Mahmoud Sa'eed [AI profile] despite a UN request to spare him because he may have had information about the 2003 bombing of a UN compound in Baghdad [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The United Nations has urged Iraq to stop using the death penalty since it was reintroduced in 2004 following the US occupation. IPS has more.

In June, Despouy similarly urged Iraq to stop carrying out death sentences [JURIST report], saying that the use of capital punishment despite threats of violence against the judiciary and the continued lack of independent tribunals and adequate defense counsel violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In April, Amnesty International reported that more than 270 people have been sentenced to death [JURIST report] in Iraq since 2005, and more than 100 have actually been executed. The report [text] found that Iraq's execution rate ranked as the world's forth highest since the reinstatement of the death penalty. Iraqi officials have consistently dismissed criticisms of the country's use of capital punishment, saying that the death penalty is a fundamental component of implementing Islamic law.

Earlier this week, the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] Appeals Chamber of the upheld the death sentences [JURIST reports] of three defendants, including Saddam cousin and former defense minister Ali Hassan al-Majid - often derided in the West as 'Chemical Ali' [BBC profile] - convicted for their roles in the slaughter of ten of thousands of Kurds during the 1988 Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder].

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