Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated regime has resorted to harsh measures in a vain bid to crush the violence sweeping Iraq, including a surge of executions under the country’s draconian 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law, generally viewed as an attempt to intimidate his political opponents.

The overwhelming majority of the executions, usually by hanging, were carried out against prisoners the government says confessed to “terrorist crimes.”

Amnesty International disputes that and reported on 10 October that 41 men and one woman had been hanged in Iraqi prisons in a two-day period after what the human rights group described as “grossly unfair trials”.

By early December, the government admitted that it had carried out at least 144 executions
in 2013, compared to 129 throughout 2012, the highest annual total since capital punishment, abolished during the US occupation, was reinstated in Iraq in 2004 by the Shi’ite-dominated government of the day.

Amnesty has listed some 500 executions since 2004. But it believes the true number is much higher. This makes Iraq one of the world’s most prolific executioners after China and Iran.

United Nations human rights commissioner Navi Pillay has called on the Baghdad regime to halt the executions and expressed horror at the number of offences for which Iraqis can be put to death – 48, including property crimes.

“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, is truly shocking,” she declared.

“Most disturbingly, we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact that there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”

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