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UN official concerned over Iraq death sentences

UN Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions Christof Heyns [official website] on Friday expressed concern [press release] about an announcement that the Iraqi Court of Cassation has upheld the death sentences of 196 individuals in the Anbar province of Iraq. Heyns said he was concerned about the growing number of prisoners sentenced to death in the country and the lack of openness and transparency in the trials of those prisoners. He noted that the upholding of the 196 death sentences occurred within just one province of the country, saying that the numbers were "extremely disturbing." The Iraqi government's lack of public information about the trials raises questions about the country's compliance with international law standards, which require adherence to a strict policy before a prisoner can receive the death penalty [JURIST news archive]. Heyns urged the Iraqi government to immediately halt all executions and review death row cases, noting that he supported a similar call [JURIST report] made in January by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website]. Pillay called on the Iraqi authorities to halt executions after the government executed 34 individuals in a single day for crimes described as terrorism-related offenses.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly [official website] approved a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty. The resolution was reaffirmed by resolution twice: in 2008 and 2010, [UN materials]. It was criticized by countries [JURIST report] that use the death penalty, which alleged that the resolution would infringe nations' sovereignty. Iraq, one of the countries that did not implement the moratorium, has been subject to criticism for violating various human rights including unlawfully detaining and repeatedly torturing thousands of detainees without warrants [JURIST reports].

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