October 11, 2013 - 17:03 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The United Nations called on Iraq on Friday, Oct 11, to halt all executions after 42 people were hanged this week in what it said were most probably illegal mass executions ordered by Baghdad's "seriously flawed" justice system, Reuters reported.
They were executed for mass killings and other offences on Wednesday and Thursday - which was World Day against the Death Penalty.
The world body called on Iraq to stop the executions and commute the sentences of the hundreds of other people believed to be on death row.
"Large-scale executions of the sort that have been carried out on a number of occasions over the past two years in Iraq are not only obscene and inhuman, they are most probably in contravention of international law," UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing.
International human rights law requires that defendants be given fair trials and that confessions are not obtained under torture, he said. The death penalty should only be handed down for the most serious crimes such as murder.
"UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has repeatedly stressed after earlier mass executions in 2012 and 2013 that the justice system in Iraq is too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time," Colville said.
Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimary said on Thursday that those executed had committed terrorist crimes that led to the deaths of dozens of innocent citizens, "as well as other crimes aimed at destabilizing the security and stability of the country".
More than 6,000 people have been killed in attacks across Iraq so far this year, as a Sunni Islamist insurgency that includes attacks by al Qaeda gains momentum.
So far this year, 140 people have been executed in Iraq, against 123 in all of 2012, he added.
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Catherine Ashton, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued a joint declaration on the European and World Day against the Death Penalty.
“Today, on the occasion of the European and World Day against the Death Penalty, the Council of Europe and the European Union reiterate their strong opposition to the use of capital punishment. They continue to underline, whenever and wherever possible, the inhumane and cruel nature of this unnecessary punishment and its failure to prevent crime. Although we are encouraged by the growing momentum towards abolition of the death penalty worldwide, the resumption of executions and breaches of decades of moratoria in different parts of the world clearly mark the necessity to pursue our long-standing action against the death penalty, in Europe and worldwide. Voices in favor of the death penalty within some parts of society, including in our continent, show that there is a continuous need to spell out why the death penalty runs contrary to the right to life and to human dignity,” they said.