In Iraq, Islamic law is the chief source of legislation according to the 2005 Constitution.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein on 9 April 2003, the death penalty was suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. It was reintroduced after the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities on 28 June 2004. Executions began in August 2005. Since then, as of 31 December 2017, at least 953
executions were carried out, most of them related to acts of terrorism.
On August 8, 2004 Iraq re-instated the death penalty for a limited range of crimes including murder, kidnapping, rape, drug offences and threats to national security.
On October 4, 2005, Iraqi lawmakers approved the death penalty for anyone financing or “provoking” terrorism. The tough new anti-terrorism law set capital punishment for those who “commit ... terror acts” as well as those who “provoke, plan, finance and all those who enable terrorists to commit these crimes”.
On 30 May 2010, the Iraqi Council of Ministers extended the application of the death penalty for economic crimes to the stealing of electricity.
Currently, the death penalty can be imposed for around 48 crimes, including a number of non-fatal crimes such as – under certain circumstances – damage to public property.
Ratifying the death sentence is one of the prerogatives of Iraq’s head of State, as stipulated in article 73 of the Constitution. All death sentences must be confirmed by the Cassation Court, after which they are referred to the Presidential Council, composed of the President and the two Vice-Presidents, for ratification and implementation. The ex-president, Jalal Talabani, did not use to sign execution orders and he delegated his ratification powers to the two Vice-Presidents. On 13 June 2011, President Talabani appointed his first deputy minister Khudayr al-Khuzaie to sign death penalty verdicts and, on 19 August, he appointed his second deputy minister Tareq al-Hashemi to do the same. However, the new orders now are signed by the new President, Fuad Massoum.
On 9 June 2015, Presidency spokesperson Khalid Shwani told BasNews that 667 execution orders were waiting to be carried out. “Most of them are pending from the previous government,” Shwani said. President Fuad Masum has established a committee to investigate the orders for convicts sentenced during former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government in order to apply justice and avoid sectarian or personal al-Maliki’s decisions.
Executions began in August 2005. Since then, as of 31 December 2016, at least 828 executions were carried out, most of them related to acts of terrorism.
In 2016, Iraq executed at least 92 people compared to 30 in 2015. At least 88 for terrorism and 3 for rape. No execution has been recorded in Kurdistan.
In 2014, Iraq had executed at least 67 people. In 2013, Iraq had executed at least 177 people (including 3 women), the country’s highest figure since the 2003 US-led invasion. In 2012, Iraq had executed at least 129 people, a significant and worrying increase compared to the previous year when at least 68 people were executed, already four times as many as the 17 executed in 2010.
In 2016, at least 145 death sentences were imposed, according to Amnesty International.
In November 2015, there were 1,700 convicts who had been sentenced to death and were awaiting execution, most of them convicted of terror related offences, according to the High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq.
On 30 December 2016, the Justice Ministry disclosed that there are about 300 death-convicts are in Iraqi prisons, but the execution verdicts were not implemented till now.
In 2017, Iraq executed at least 125
people compared to 92 in 2016 and at least 30 in 2015. The at least 125 executions of 2017 were carried out for terrorism [See Chapter “The War on Terror”].
In 2017, at least 65
death sentences were imposed, according to Amnesty International.
In December 2017, there were at least 6,000
convicts who had been sentenced to death and were awaiting execution, most of them convicted of terror related offences, according to the High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq.
In 2017, no execution has been recorded in Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Region, unlike Iraq, rarely implements the death penalty. An “informal moratorium” on death penalty was adopted in 2008. Since then, the death penalty has been carried four times. The last known case was in December 2016, when then President Masoud Barzani approved the execution of a man found guilty of raping and killing a female child in the Kurdish city of Duhok. Following the resignation of Kurdish President Masoud Barzani in October 2017, the power to impose the death penalty has now been assigned to Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
On 16 December 2017, the Kurdistan parliament decided in a majority vote to issue an amnesty to those on death row, reducing their sentence to a mere 15 years in prison, excluding those who had been convicted of terrorism, threatening national security or murdering women in so-called honour killings.
Iraqi law provides for a number of procedural guarantees as far as the death penalty is concerned, as reflected by the Criminal Procedure Code No. 3 of 1971 and the 2017 Public prosecution Law No. 49. “In practice, however, these guarantees are not implemented or they have proven insufficient to protect against abuses,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, following her official visit to Iraq from 14 to 23 November 2017. According to the Special Rapporteur, UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] and others have documented violations of fair-trial standards in proceedings leading to death sentences, including death sentences given in cases where little evidence was available besides a confession that the defendant argued was made under torture. Death sentences against persons who were underage when they committed the crime they were being sentenced for have also been documented.
The hangings are carried out regularly from a wooden gallows in a small, cramped cell of Al-Adalah prison complex in the north Baghdad Shia area of Kadhimiyah, although some executions are also carried out in Nassiriya Prison (Al Hut) in Thi Qar governorate. Most prisoners awaiting execution are kept in a special wing within the Al Adalah prison complex. On the day the sentence is to be implemented, the convict is placed in a special holding cell in the Al Adalah Prison where she or he remains until led to the gallows for execution. There is a shower room in the prison where the convict can take ablutions before the execution if she or he so wishes. The convict is also weighed and measured so that the appropriate length of rope can be determined for the hanging. The sentence and decree ordering execution are read before the sentence is implemented. Witnesses gather inside a viewing room with a one-way glass window to observe the execution. After the execution, the body is handed over to relatives, upon their request; if not, the person will be buried by the authorities without a funeral ceremony.
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity on 30 December 2006 at Al-Adalah Prison, where the same end befell other exponents of the deposed regime, between 2007 and 2012.
The war on terror
Iraqi law imposes the death penalty for 48 crimes, but most executions for which the criminal charge has been revealed have been under Article 4 of the October 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law.
The Anti-terrorism Law provides for the death penalty for “whoever commits... terrorist acts,” as well as for “anyone who instigates, prepares, finances and fosters the conditions for terrorists to commit this type of crime.”
The Law contains a broad definition of terrorism that is susceptible to wide interpretation: “Every criminal act committed by an individual or an organized group that targeted an individual or a group of individuals or groups or official or unofficial institutions and caused damage to public or private properties, with the aim to disturb the peace, stability, and national unity or to bring about horror and fear among people and to create chaos to achieve terrorist goals.”
Furthermore, the terrorism law offered amnesty and anonymity to al-mukhbir al-sirri, secret informers who report alleged terrorist activities. Those reports contributed to the detention of thousands of Iraqis, who were sentenced to death shortly after being arrested.
Iraq’s Government has also received criticism for televising many confessions of those who committed acts of terrorism. It’s difficult to find out under what conditions those confessions were given. The fact is that detainees are sometimes tortured and forced to confess crimes or terrorist acts during pre-trial interrogations, confessions they later denounce in court. However, such confessions are highly publicized and regularly broadcast on the State-funded TV channel, a practice which strongly undermines the rule of law and the right to a fair trial.
On 9 March 2006, the first condemnations were carried out under the new anti-terrorism law.
On 5 November 2015, the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which monitors state-parties’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, accused Iraq of violating the human rights of its citizens in the name of combating acts of terrorism. The committee of 18 independent experts acknowledged Iraq’s need to adopt measures to combat acts of terrorism. This, especially in light of the grave crimes being committed by the so-called Islamic State (IS), including killings, abductions, enslavement, rape, and torture. But, it said these horrific acts do not justify the human rights violations reportedly being committed against civilians by Iraqi security forces and allied armed groups in their efforts to defeat IS. The experts are concerned by allegations that police often use torture to extract confessions from people suspected of terrorism and other crimes.
Iraq executed at least 30 people in 2015, including 27 for terrorism. At least 88 other people were hanged in 2016 all for terrorism, according official data released by the Minister of Justice on 30 december 2016. However, the Hands off Cain
monitoring show at least 94 executed for terrorism in 2016.
In 2014, at least 67 executions were carried out, most of them related to acts of terrorism.
As of 20 June 2016, there were about 9,000 detainees on terrorism charges in the Iraqi prisons, including 200 Arab and foreign citizens, according to the Director General of the Department of Reform in the Ministry of Justice, Khaled Hussein al-Askari.
In Iraq, mass executions are carried out for terrorism. On 19 October 2014, the United Nations said Iraq should stop its widespread use of the death penalty, which is unjust, flawed and only fuels the violence it purports to deter. "Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime by potentially claiming the life of another innocent person and by undermining any real justice that the victims and families might have received," said the report, published jointly by the U.N. Mission in Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office. Some convicts' relatives said they had been offered a chance to avoid the death penalty by hiring a particular lawyer for 100,000 USD, while many women detainees said they had been detained in place of a male relative, the report said. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and U.N. Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said Iraq should impose a moratorium on the death penalty. The report said the Iraqi government's view that the death penalty deterred violence "appears not to be valid given the deteriorating security situation over the past years" and said the executions appeared to be merely a reaction to the violence. “As many of those engaged in committing acts of terrorism in Iraq are motivated by an extremist ideology and are prepared to die to achieve their objectives, it may well be that they do not view the death penalty as a deterrent.” The report also rejected the government's claim that its use of the death penalty enjoyed popular support in Iraq. "Once informed of the facts, including that it has no deterrent effect whatsoever on levels of violence and the risks of serious and irreversible miscarriages of justice, it is unlikely that the death penalty would continue to enjoy the public support that it now allegedly receives," the report said.
Iraq executed at least 125
people in 2017, all for terrorism, as officially made public by the Iraqi government. In 2016, Iraq carried out at least 92 executions, most of them related to acts of terrorism.
In March 2018, The Associated Press reported that Iraq had detained or imprisoned at least 19,000 people since 2014 on accusations of connections to the Islamic State or other terrorism-related offenses, and sentenced more than 3,000 of them to death. The AP count is based partially on an analysis of a spreadsheet listing all 27,849 people imprisoned in Iraq as of late January 2018, provided by an official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Thousands more also are believed to be held in detention by other bodies, including the Federal Police, military intelligence and Kurdish forces. The AP determined that 8,861 of the prisoners listed in the spreadsheet were convicted of terrorism-related charges since the beginning of 2013 – arrests overwhelmingly likely to be linked to the Islamic State group, according to an intelligence figure in Baghdad. In addition, another 11,000 people currently are being detained by the intelligence branch of the Interior Ministry, undergoing interrogation or awaiting trial, a second intelligence official said. Both intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press. Large numbers of Iraqis were detained during the 2000s, when the U.S. and Iraqi governments were battling Sunni militants, including Al-Qaeda, and Shiite militias. In 2007, at the height of the fighting, the U.S. military held 25,000 detainees. The spreadsheet obtained by the AP showed that about 6,000 people arrested on terror charges before 2013 still are serving those sentences.
Top secret death
The rising number of those detained and imprisoned reflects the more than four-year fight against the Islamic State group, which first formed in 2013 and conquered nearly a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria the next year. Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, eventually rolled the group back on both sides of the border, regaining nearly all of the territory by the end of 2017.
Throughout the fighting, Iraq has pushed thousands of IS suspects through trials in counterterrorism courts. Trials witnessed by the AP and human rights groups often took no longer than 30 minutes. The vast majority were convicted under Iraq’s Terrorism Law, which has been criticized as overly broad.
The spreadsheet analysed by the AP showed that 3,130 prisoners have been sentenced to death on terrorism charges since 2013.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has repeatedly called for accelerated death sentences for those charged with terrorism. The United Nations has warned that fast-tracking executions puts innocent people at greater risk of being convicted and executed, “resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice.”
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime on 9 April 2003, the death penalty was suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. It was reintroduced on 8 August 2004, after the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities on 28 June 2004. Since then, as of 31 December 2017, at least 953 executions were carried out, most of them related to acts of terrorism.
In 2017, Iraq executed at least 125 people compared to 92 in 2016.
However, these numbers could be much higher, because there are no official statistics available and news published by national papers do not report all the facts.
Since 2015, the Ministry of Justice instructed its staff not to communicate information to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in relation to death sentences implemented in Iraq.
The Ministry of Justice rarely provides information about executions in advance. No information is given about the identities of those executed, places of residence, exact crimes, trials, date of sentencing, or the appeals processes which Iraqi officials say they have exhausted.
The Ministry says merely that they were “terrorists affiliated to the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda
,” who had been convicted under article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, No. 13 of 2005, who had participated in assassinations, explosions, and other terrorist attacks. Execution orders for people on death row are handed down directly from the Prime Minister’s Office to prison facilities.The death penalty on women
The penal code punishes adultery with prison and does not explicitly prohibit homosexual acts, but people have been killed by militias or sentenced to death by judges on the basis of Sharia. A report published by the United Nations in 2014 shows that many women in detention said they had been sentenced in place of one of their male relatives.
Under the Iraq Law on Criminal Proceedings (art. 287) a pregnant prisoner’s execution is stayed during her pregnancy and until four months after giving birth, and may be reduced. A pregnant prisoner’s sentence is automatically submitted for review for a reduction of sentence, but she may still be executed four months after giving birth. United Nations
On 3 November 2014, Iraq was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. In its National Report, the Government said, “abolition of the death penalty would currently constitute a flaw in the criminal justice system, since Iraq is confronted with organized and unorganized heinous and abhorrent terrorist crimes... Under these circumstances, Iraq must retain the death penalty.” However, Iraq wished to review the application of death penalty by establishing a department in the Ministry of Human Rights to look into the issue in the future, in the hope that the penalty could be restricted to the gravest of crimes.
On 19 December 2016, Iraq voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. Also in 2014 and 2012, Iraq had voted against the Resolution.
On 29 September 2017, Iraq voted against the Resolution on the Death Penalty at the 36° session of the UN Council on Human Rights.