A UN human rights expert on Thursday condemned [press release] Iraq for the executions of 21 people on Monday and five more people on Wednesday. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Chistof Heyns [academic profile] urged the government of Iraq to halt all executions and ensure that all criminal defendants have fair trials. Heyns decried the Iraqi government for enacting its death penalty in an arbitrary and inhumane manner:
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 arbitrary killing of people, also when it is committed behind a smokescreen of flawed legal processes, is not solely a matter of domestic concern. 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.Heyns will present a report on issues relating to the death penalty in October to the UN General Assembly [official website].
The issue of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] continues to be debated on an international level as well as in individual states in the US. On Thursday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the Gambia to enact a moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report]. In July Singapore announced it planned to relax mandatory death sentences in certain cases [JURIST report]. Just one week before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] called for an end to capital punishment [JURIST report]. In April an initiative in California dealing with overhauling death penalty laws in the state [JURIST report] made it on to the ballot for a November vote.