UN rights commissioner protests Iraqi execution state

Iraq appeared to retreat from its political impasse Feb. 3, as the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc agreed to end its parliament boycott. The bloc’s return to the cabinet depends on how Iraq’s premier responds, fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi told AFP. Hashemi, a Sunni, is accused of financing a death squad to target police, judges and officials. He has been hiding out in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region since December. (AFP, Feb. 3) Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized Iraq for carrying out a large number of executions—including 34 on a single day last month. “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,” Pillay said, referring to executions carried out on Jan. 19. “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.” At least 63 are believed to have been executed since mid-November in Iraq, where the death penalty can be imposed for some 48 crimes—including non-fatal offenses such as damage to public property. (Reuters, Jan. 24)

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