IRAQ HAS EXECUTED 257 SINCE 2005: MINISTER
December 16, 2010: Iraq has executed 257 people, including six women, since 2005, deputy justice minister Busho Ibrahim told AFP on Thursday, amid calls from the United Nations for Iraq to abolish capital punishment.
Ibrahim also said the country was embarking on a major prison rebuilding and renovation programme that would see all of its 33 jails upgraded to what he said would be international standards by 2015.
"Executions began in August 2005, and 37 people are presently ready to be executed, following approval from the presidency council," Ibrahim said.
He said 251 men and six women had been executed since Iraq lifted the moratorium on the death penalty it adopted after the 2003 US-led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein.
This year, Iraq has executed just 17 people, sharply down on 2009 when it put 124 people to death, four of them women.
Ibrahim gave no explanation for the fall but Iraq has been without a government for much of this year and under the constitution all executions have to approved by a member of the three-man presidency.
Ibrahim also said that Iraq was embarking on a massive prison revamping programme, due to be completed in 2015.
"There are some plans to build new prisons because most of our current prisons are very old," he said. "Only the prisons that were built by the Americans are of good quality. All of the Saddam-era prisons, except for Badoush in Mosul (northern Iraq), need to be rebuilt, renovated or modernised.
"By 2014 or 2015, all prisons in Iraq should be fully updated or rebuilt," Ibrahim said, putting the current capacity of the 33 prisons operated by the justice ministry, two of which are not being used, at 28,530.
Iraq's fractured penal system means that while all convicted prisoners are sent to justice ministry jails, the ministries of interior and defence operate their own pre-trial detention facilities.
Ibrahim said that as of December 9, a total of 24,783 people were being held in justice ministry prisons, including both convicts and remand prisoners.
Among them are 130 minors convicted of offences and 45 awaiting trial. A total of 341 adult women are serving sentences, while 241 are on remand.
Overall, he put prison operating costs at between 180 and 190 dollars per prisoner per month -- 150 dollars a month for food, with the remainder being spent on clothing, healthcare and other basic services. (Sources: Afp, 16/12/2010)