One of the world’s top executioners
The death penalty can be imposed in Iraq for around 48 crimes, including a number of non-fatal crimes such as – under certain circumstances – damage to public property.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein on 9 April 2003, the death penalty was suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. It was reintroduced after the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities on 28 June 2004. On 8 August, a little more than a month after it came to power, the Iraqi interim government, led by Iyad Allawi, approved a law that reintroduced the death penalty for homicide, kidnapping, rape and drug-trafficking.
On 30 May 2010, the Iraqi Council of Ministers extended the application of the death penalty for economic crimes to the stealing of electricity.
Ratifying the death sentence is one of the prerogatives of Iraq’s head of State, as stipulated in article 73 of the constitution.
The current president, Jalal Talabani, has always spoke out against the fact that his Country uses the death penalty, stressing it was time to turn the page on Iraq’s history of capital punishment. “I think that the page of executions needs to be turned, except concerning the crimes committed at the cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and crimes against Shiite pilgrims and holy sites,” Talabani said. The president, who was reappointed in November 2010 in a power-sharing pact that ended more than eight months of political paralysis, during his first term, declined to confirm some court execution orders but without preventing the hangings going ahead as the two vice presidents at the time, a Shiite and a Sunni, were able to authorize them in his place. But their mandate has not been renewed.
On 13 June 2011, President Talabani appointed his first deputy minister Khudayr al-Khuzaie to sign death penalty verdicts and, on 19 August, he appointed his second deputy minister Tareq al-Hashemi to do the same.
The Death Penalty under Nouri al-Maliki, an echo of Saddamite Baathist Terror.
The hangings are carried out regularly from a wooden gallows in a small, cramped cell of al-Kadhimiya Prison, in Saddam Hussein’s old intelligence headquarters at Kadhimiya, a Shia district of Baghdad. The condemned prisoners in Kadhimiya are said to include rapists and murderers as well as insurgents awaiting the same summary justice they mete out to their own captives.
On 30 December 2006, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity in the same “secure” unit at Kadhimiya where Nouri al-Maliki’s people, in an echo of Saddamite Baathist terror, now hang their victims. The same end, in the same place, befell other exponents of the deposed regime: Barzan al-Tikriti, Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Taha Yassin Ramadan, executed in 2007. Illicit videos of Saddam Hussein and Barzan al-Tikriti’s executions later became public. Saddam’s body could be seen on a hospital trolley, his head twisted at 90 degrees. Barzan was beheaded by the noose. On 25 January 2010, Ali Hassan al-Majid, the cousin of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was executed for crimes against humanity.
On 7 June 2012, Saddam Hussein’s trusted personal secretary, Abed Hamid Hamoud, was executed by hanging, the Justice Ministry said. Hamoud was the latest in a series of former senior regime officials who have been executed by Iraq’s new rulers since the toppling of Saddam. His body was to be handed over to his family, officials said. Hamoud, a distant cousin of Saddam, was captured by U.S. forces in June 2003, three months after the invasion. At the time, he was No. 4 on the list of wanted regime officials, after only Saddam and sons Qusay and Uday. He was known as the ace of diamonds on the U.S. deck of cards that ranked leaders of Saddam’s government. Hamoud, in his mid-50s, was executed for persecuting members of the Shiite opposition and religious parties that were banned under Saddam, a court official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Hamoud had also been among 15 high-profile defendants tried for their role in the brutal crushing of a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. As Saddam’s presidential secretary, Hamoud controlled access to the Iraqi president and was one of the few people he is said to have trusted completely, U.S. officials said in 2003. Like Saddam, Hamoud was from the northern Iraqi town of Tikrit.
On 10 June 2012, the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), an independent research and media organization based in Montreal, reported on its website (www.globalresearch.ca) that “shocking details have emerged from an impeccable source (not named for obvious reasons)” of the execution on 7 June, in Baghdad, of Abed Hamid Hamoud, President Saddam Hussein’s former personal secretary and aide. “What you have not heard”, states the commentator, “is that (Mr Hamoud) was led to his execution whilst under the impression that he was going for a medical check-up. The Iraqi government didn’t even notify his family or relatives or make arrangements with them to deliver his body.” A chilling observation on America and Britain’s “New Iraq” is that the Maliki government is “… so intent on revenge that they have waived the formalities of telling a person they were taking him to his execution.”
Deep concern is expressed for the fate of both Tareq Aziz and Sadoun Shakir in the light of this appalling act. They were sentenced at the same Court hearing. Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki’s Press Secretary stated earlier this year that they would execute Tareq Aziz, “… and now that they are done with the formalities, there is nothing to stop them. “The world must know what these people have done and what I am sure they will do, God forbid, in the near future,” concludes our contact bleakly, pleading that pressure be brought to “stop what they are planning to do” in the case of Tareq Aziz, Sadoun Shakir and many others. Hamoud was sentenced to death 26 October 2010 with former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz and former intelligence chief Sadoun Shakir, over the persecution of Islamic parties under Saddam’s regime, heightening fears for their imminent execution.
At Third Place on the Podium of Inhumanity.
In 2012, Iraq has come in third in the bid for the highest number of executions and, along with China and Iran, finds itself atop the loathsome awards podium of the champion Executioner-States of the world.
Executions began in August 2005, after Iraq lifted the moratorium on the death penalty established in 2003 by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. Since then and until 11 November 2012, at least 475 executions were carried out, most of them related to acts of terrorism.
In 2012 (as of 11 November) there were at least 132 executions, all by hanging. They were a significant and worrying increase compared to the previous year when at least 68 people were executed, and amount to more than a quarter of all convicts who have been put to death after dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted in the U.S.-led war.
As of 31 December 2011, at least 1,300 people were on death row, according to Amnesty International.
On 24 January 2012, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed shock at Iraq’s execution of 34 people in a single day on 19 January, and called on the Country to institute an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty. “Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day,” Navi Pillay stated in a news release. “Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure,” she added. The High Commissioner also urged the Government “to halt all executions and, as a matter of urgency, review the cases of those individuals currently on death row.” “Most disturbingly,” said Ms. Pillay, “we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”
On 27 January 2012, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton expressed concern about the increasing use of the death penalty in Iraq. “The increase in executions in the last months clearly goes against the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty,” she said in a statement. The EU called on Iraq to cease carrying out executions and to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to its abolition. The 27-member European bloc urged Iraq to adhere to minimum international standards for the use of the death penalty. “The death penalty should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, and in the case of clear and compelling evidence. It should never be used in cases where convictions were based on confessions that may have been coerced, and an effective right to appeal must be ensured,” added the statement.
On 4 April 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “concerned by the continued and increased implementation of the death penalty” in Iraq. “I urge the Iraqi authorities to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty,” he said.
Haider al-Saadi, the spokesman for the Iraqi Justice Ministry, said the death penalty is the best way for the Iraqi government to ease the suffering of the victims' families. "The criminals in Iraq are not like the ones in Switzerland or other European Union countries or any others," he said. "Iraq today is facing the most dangerous terrorists in the world."
The “War on Terror”
In October 2005, the Iraqi Parliament approved a new anti-terrorism law that provides for the death penalty for “whoever commits... terrorist acts,” as well as for “anyone who instigates, prepares, finances and fosters the conditions for terrorists to commit this type of crime.” Is considered a terrorist act every violence or threat of sectarian discord and civil war through citizens’ arming as well as their instigation and financing to arm each other, according to Article 4 of 2005’s Anti-Terrorism Law.
Furthermore, the terrorism law offered amnesty and anonymity to al-mukhbir al-sirri
, secret informers who report alleged terrorist activities. Those reports contributed to the detention of thousands of Iraqis. This has created a weak judicial process, with the detention of many Iraqis sentenced to death shortly after being arrested.
Iraq’s government has also received criticism for televising many confessions of those who committed acts of terrorism. It’s difficult to find out under what conditions those confessions were given. The fact is that detainees are sometimes tortured and forced to confess crimes or terrorist acts during pre-trial interrogations, confessions they later denounce in court.
However, such confessions are highly publicized and regularly broadcast on the State-funded TV channel, a practice which strongly undermines the rule of law and the right to a fair trial. In June 2011, the State TV broadcast confessions of members of an armed group who admitted to having massacred participants in a wedding party, after raping several women and the bride. Members of the armed group were sentenced to death in about a week after the television confessions, an insufficient time for adequate investigation, proper legal representation or an appeal.
On 9 March 2006, the first condemnations were carried out under the new anti-terrorism law. Since then, the vast majority of executions that are performed every year in Iraq affects people convicted of crimes related to terrorism.
In 2012, as of 11 November, Iraq executed at least 132 people, almost all for offenses related to terrorism.
On 19 January 2012, 34 people, including two women, were executed early in the morning for terrorism-related offences, announced the State-owned Al-Iraqiya
TV channel, quoting a statement by the Ministry of Justice. On 24 January, the spokesman of the justice ministry, Haidar al-Saadi, confirmed to AFP
in Baghdad that the executions took place, without elaborating.
On 31 January 2012, Iraq executed 17 men in one day, the justice ministry said, bringing to at least 51 the number in January 2012. The Justice Ministry said the accused had been convicted of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and murder. “The Ministry of Justice is moving forward in carrying out fair punishment for criminals spilling Iraqi blood,” Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari was quoted as saying.
On 7 February 2012, 14 people were executed, most of them Al-Qaeda
members, a senior justice ministry official said on 8 February. “Fourteen Iraqis were executed in Baghdad yesterday,” the official said, asking not to be named. They included Abu Talha who headed an Al-Qaeda
affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq
, in the northern city of Mosul and the provinces of Anbar and Salahuddin, the official said. “They were convicted of terrorism and other crimes committed in 2006 and 2007.” He added that the executions were compliant with anti-terrorism and penal codes.
On 20 February 2012, four people, two of them convicted of terrorism-related charges and the others convicted of murder and kidnapping, were hanged in the morning, a justice ministry official told AFP
. All four were Iraqis, the official said.
Between 27 and 29 August 2012, Iraq executed 26 people convicted of terror-related charges, including a Syrian and Saudi national, a justice ministry spokesman said. The death sentences were carried out after the Iraqi Presidency Council approved the penalty verdicts for all the convicts. On 27 August, "the justice ministry carried out 21 executions against those condemned of terrorism charges, including three women," Haidar al-Saadi, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, said in statement. He did not give any further details. On 29 August, Iraq executed five other convicted prisoners over similar charges of terrorism crimes, the Ministry of Justice announced. On 31 August, the spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice confirmed that Saudi citizen Mazin Masawee was executed by hanging, ending speculation about his fate. Haydar Al-Sadi told Okaz/Saudi Gazette
that Masawee together with 25 other prisoners, charged with terrorism, were transferred on 27 August to the condemned cell and they were hanged separately over a period of three days. There were Jordanians and Syrians among the prisoners. Masawee was arrested on 4 August 2010 for allegedly joining a terrorist group which blew up a police station in Baghdad and was sentenced to death, the spokesman said. Prison sources said Arab prisoners, especially Saudis, started a hunger strike following the execution of Masawee. They called for Iraqi authorities to stop executions and release prisoners who were wrongly accused of terrorist activities without strong evidence. Talal Al-Zawbaee, an MP from the Iraqiya List, also called upon the Ministry of Justice to stop the executions. At a press conference, he wondered why the executions were taking place just days before the Parliament was going to vote on a public pardon law. “This is unprecedented and unheard of in the Iraqi history. It puts the government in a tight position vis-à-vis the human rights reports made by global organizations.”
Between 4 and 8 October 2012, Iraq executed 26 more people convicted of terror-related charges. On 4 October, Iraq hanged six people, including one of the 23 inmates who were recaptured after a prison breakout in Tikrit the week before. Of the 102 prisoners who escaped from the jail north of Baghdad, 47 had been sentenced to death as members of Al-Qaeda
front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, the interior ministry said at the time. On 7 October, eleven people were executed, among them ten Iraqis and one Algerian convicted of terrorist activities. On 8 October, Iraqi authorities carried out six more death sentences, bringing to 23 the number of people executed in a week. "The justice ministry carried out six executions against convicts against whom final verdicts were issued and approved by the presidency," the ministry said in a statement on its website. Four of the convicts had been tried on anti-terror charges, while two were found guilty of kidnappings and murders, it said.
On 11 November 2012, Iraqi authorities executed 10 prisoners – nine Iraqis and one Egyptian – for terrorism convictions, the Ministry of Justice announced. "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council," the ministry said in a statement.
Top Secret Death
The death penalty has been in force in the Iraqi legal system since 1921, following the foundation of the Iraqi State in 1920. Its field of application had been increasingly extended since the taking of power by the Baath party in 1968 and since 1979, the year marking the beginning of Saddam Hussein’s presidency.
Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay reportedly signed around 10,000 execution orders.
From 1998 to 2001, 4,000 people were executed according to a report presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights by the Special Rapporteur on Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis, on 1 April 2002.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime on 9 April 2003, the death penalty was suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. It was reintroduced on 8 August 2004, after the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities on 28 June 2004.
Iraq executed at least 132 people in 2012 (as of 11 November). However, these numbers could be much higher, because there are no official statistics available and news published by national papers do not report all the facts.
According to most observers, secret executions are being carried out in Iraq in the prisons run by Nouri al-Maliki’s “democratic” government. On 1 September 2009, Agence France Presse
reported a government source indicating that the number of executions being carried out may be much higher than previously thought. “There is an average of 10 executions per week because of the security situation” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “More than 800 people are awaiting the death penalty.” A police officer at Al-Adalah prison in Kadhimiya where executions are carried out said “10 to 15 executions are carried out every seven to eight days, the majority of them terrorists.”
All death sentences must be confirmed by the Court of Cassation, after which they are referred to the Presidential Council, composed of the President and the two Vice-Presidents, for ratification and implementation. The President, Jalal Talabani, opposes the death penalty and delegates his ratification powers to the two Vice-Presidents.
All prisoners whose death sentences have been ratified by the Presidential Council are transferred to the 5th
section (al Shuba al Khamisa
) of al-Kadhimiya Prison in Baghdad before they are executed. This section of the prison is under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, while the other sections are under the control of the Ministry of Justice.
There is no public record of these killings in what is now called Baghdad’s “high-security detention facility” but there have been hundreds since America overthrown Saddam’s regime. In many cases, it seems, the Iraqis neither keep nor release any record of the true names of their captives or of the hanged prisoners.
In February 2011, Human Rights Watch
uncovered, within the Camp Justice
military base in Baghdad, a secret detention facility controlled by elite security forces who report to the military office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Beginning on 23 November 2010, Iraqi authorities transferred more than 280 detainees to the facility, which was controlled by the Army’s 56th
Brigade and the Counter-Terrorism Service. The same elite divisions controlled Camp Honor
, a separate facility in Baghdad where detainees were tortured with impunity. Detainees said interrogators beat them; hung them upside down for hours at a time; administered electric shocks to various body parts, including the genitals; and repeatedly put plastic bags over their heads until they passed out from asphyxiation. On 14 March 2011, the Justice Ministry announced that it would close Camp Honor
after a parliamentary investigative committee found evidence of torture during a spot inspection of the facility. Human Rights Watch
has since received credible information that elite forces may still hold and interrogate detainees at Camp Honor
Between 27 and 29 August 2012, Iraq executed 26 people convicted of terror-related charges, including a Saudi, a Syrian and three Iraqi women. The executions were announced with no details about the names or trials of those who were killed, drawing widespread international denunciation. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, investigator on arbitrary executions, described the government-sanctioned executions as "arbitrary killing" that is "committed behind a smokescreen of flawed legal processes." He warned that the "continued lack of transparency about the implementation of the death penalty in Iraq, and the country's recent record, raise serious concerns about the question of what to expect in the future."