UN: accelerated Iraqi death sentences risk greater injustice

AP News
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Posted: Aug 01, 2016 6:05 PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's attempt to fast-track death sentences handed out by the country's courts will result in greater injustice, according to a statement from the United Nations Monday.

"Given the weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system," the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said, "I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice."

The U.N. in Iraq has found "a consistent failure to respect due process and fair trial standards, including a reliance on torture to extract confessions," Al Hussein added. Iraq's justice system has repeatedly been criticized for a lack of transparency and corruption.

Also Monday, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an investigation into allegations of government corruption raised in parliament during the questioning of the minister of defense.

Earlier this year al-Abadi faced growing anti-government protests demanding reform. Protesters — many followers of powerful Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — stormed Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone twice in the space of a single month.

The protests largely dissipated after Iraqi forces retook the city of Fallujah, but unrest was reignited when an Islamic State group bombing in a busy shopping district in downtown Baghdad killed at least 292 people on July 3. When al-Abadi visited the site, his convoy was chased away by angry crowds calling him a "thief."

In the face of increasing criticism for the lack of security in Baghdad, Al-Abadi created a committee last month to help accelerate the implementation of death sentences handed down by Iraq's courts. Iraq also ordered the execution of five prisoners on death row after the Baghdad bombing.

"Executions are not the solution and they do not address the root causes of crime," rights group Amnesty International said in a statement last month.

According to figures compiled by Amnesty, Iraq regularly ranks among the top five countries in the world for carrying out the most executions.

Amnesty said so far in 2016, Iraq has executed at least 105 people.

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