IRAQ: PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLS FOR DEATH PENALTY SUSPENSION
|Iraq's parliament speaker Iyad al-Samarrai
November 1, 2009: Iraq's parliament speaker called for a suspension of executions until after elections set for January, to ensure that political parties do not use them as issues during the election campaign.
Iyad al-Samarrai put the request in to the justice ministry after receiving a letter from the head of parliament's legal committee, Baha Hussein al-Araji, who was concerned that Iraq's ruling parties may seek to bolster their support by claiming to have executed various criminals.
"Mr. Samarrai addressed this request to the justice ministry after a request from the chair of the legal committee," a parliamentary official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Araji is a member of the parliamentary bloc loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
According to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, Araji called on Samarrai to "direct the justice ministry to suspend executions which have already been approved (by the presidential council) so that they cannot be used politically by the parties in power."
The presidential council is made up of President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies, who must jointly approve every execution.
At a meeting with families of people either killed or imprisoned by Saddam's Baath Party, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged the council to continue to allow executions.
At least eight former senior officials in the regime of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein have been condemned to death, including Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," and two of Saddam's half-brothers.
Their death sentences were all greeted by celebrations among Shiites and Kurds, two communities violently repressed by Saddam, across Iraq.
Baghdad reintroduced the death penalty in 2004, after a brief moratorium immediately following the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.
The country has at least 1,000 people under sentence of death, according to a September report by London-based human rights group Amnesty International. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 02/11/2009)