Iraq executes 12 ‘terror’ convicts amid surging unrest

The executions bring to at least 144 of the total number of people put to death by Iraq this year

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Iraqi authorities announced the execution of a dozen “terrorism” convicts on Monday, defying widespread international condemnation of Baghdad’s use of the death penalty as violence nationwide has surged.

The latest executions, carried out on Sunday, bring to at least 144 the total number of people put to death by Iraq so far this year, compared to 129 for all of 2012, according to an AFP tally based on reports from the justice ministry and officials.

“Yesterday (Sunday), we executed 12 convicts,” a senior justice ministry official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“All of them were Iraqi men accused of terrorism.”

The official gave no further details about the men or the crimes they had been convicted of.

Executions in Iraq, usually carried out by hanging, have increased this year despite persistent international criticism urging Baghdad to issue a moratorium on capital punishment.

In a statement issued on World Day Against the Death Penalty last month, the justice ministry said it had executed 42 convicts in one week.

The executions have drawn widespread condemnation from the European Union, the United Nations and rights groups.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said this year that Iraq’s criminal justice system was “not functioning adequately.”

She highlighted “numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary and trial proceedings that fall short of international standards.”

“The application of the death penalty in these circumstances is unconscionable, as any miscarriage of justice as a result of capital punishment cannot be undone,” Pillay said.

But Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari has insisted that the executions are carried out only after an exhaustive legal process.

The growing use of the death penalty comes as violence in Iraq has reached a level not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict.

More than 5,700 people have died so far this year in surging unrest that has forced Iraq to appeal for international help in combatting militancy, with the government facing criticism from diplomats and analysts saying it has not done enough to address the root causes of the bloodshed.

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