UN rights arm denounces executions in Iraq's Kurdish region

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2015 1:59 PM

GENEVA (AP) — U.N. rights officials are denouncing the execution of a man and his two wives in Iraq's Kurdish region over the kidnapping and murder of two girls, saying they fear the self-ruled region may slide back toward use of the death penalty.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that Farhad Jaafar Mahmood and wives Khuncha Hassan Ismaeil and Berivan Haider Karim were hanged Aug. 12 following convictions in April last year. Local officials said, however, the hangings took place Saturday. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the OHCHR, said he could not immediately explain the discrepancy.

The U.N. opposes the death penalty. The human rights office said the three executions are the first under the Kurdish regional government since an "informal moratorium" was set up there in 2008. It said Iraq overall has executed more than 600 people since it reinstituted the death penalty in 2004 after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Soran Omar, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the three executed had been arrested for kidnapping the two girls on separate occasions in November 2011 and October 2012 in the town of Zakho. The wives allegedly helped the man kidnapping the two girls and brought them to the city of Irbil. There the man raped the girls and killed them.

Under suspected pressure from local tribes and political leaders, Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani signed the execution order despite previously refusing to do so. Omar said 205 people in the Kurdistan region are on a list to be executed, but Barzani has not given the final order in those cases.

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Eds: Bram Janssen and Salar Salim contributed from Irbil, Iraq.