Reuters & Kareem Raheem / Reuters – 2012-01-26 00:03:25
UN Rights Chief Shocked at Numerous Iraq Executions
GENEVA (January 24, 2012) — The top United Nations human rights official criticized Iraq on Tuesday for carrying out a large number of executions, including 34 on a single day last week, and voiced concern about due process and the fairness of trials.
“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,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, in a statement referring to executions carried out on January 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,” she added.
At least 63 people are believed to have been executed since mid-November in Iraq, where the death penalty can be imposed for some 48 crimes including a number related to non-fatal crimes such as damage to public property, Pillay said.
“Most disturbingly, we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress,” she said.
Iraq executed 12 people on November 24 for their involvement in the 2006 killing of 70 people at a wedding in central Iraq, the justice ministry said.
“Carrying out this execution against such bold criminals is deemed a deterrent that could prevent the repetition of such crimes in the future,” Major General Hamid al-Moussawi, a senior justice ministry official, said at the time.
Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, called on the Iraqi government to impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty, saying some 150 countries had either abolished it or introduced a moratorium.
Iraq should “halt all executions and, and a matter of urgency, review the cases of those individuals currently on death row,” she said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tim Pearce)
Car Bombs Kill 14, Wound 75 in Iraq Capital
Kareem Raheem / Reuters
BAGHDAD (January 24, 2012) — Four car bombs exploded in mainly Shi’ite Muslim areas of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 14 people and wounding 75, underlining a political crisis that threatens to revive sectarian strife in Iraq.
The first blast hit a group of day laborers gathering for jobs in the poor northeastern Sadr City area of the capital, leaving a chaotic scene of scattered shoes and food, and pools of blood. The bomb killed at least eight people and wounded 24, police and hospital sources said.
“We were all standing waiting to earn our living and all of a sudden it was like a black storm and I felt myself thrown on the ground,” said Ahmed Ali, a 40-year-old laborer whose face and hair were burned by the explosion.
“I fainted for a while then I woke up and hurried to one of the cars to take me to the hospital,” said Ali, lying on a bed in the emergency room at Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City.
The second blast near a traffic roundabout in Sadr City killed three people and wounded 26 others, the sources said.
Two other car bombs exploded in mainly Shi’ite northwestern areas of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 25, sources said. One car blew up near two schools in the Shula district, the other on a busy commercial street in Hurriya.
Violence in Iraq has dropped sharply from the height of sectarian killing in 2006-7, but insurgents and militias still carry out daily attacks and assassinations in an attempt to undermine the government.
Iraq has been hit by a series of bombings targeting Shi’ites during the worst political crisis in a year, which threatens to break up a fragile coalition government and has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence after U.S. troops left on December 18.
The government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki moved last month to arrest Sunni Muslim Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he ran a death squad and then sought to sideline a Sunni deputy prime minister after he branded Maliki a dictator.
Hashemi denied the charges and sought refuge in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, where he is unlikely to be arrested.
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc then announced a boycott of parliament and several Iraqiya ministers have stayed away from cabinet meetings in protest. Others have attended, underscoring splits in the alliance.
The turmoil has fuelled fears that Maliki is trying to shore up Shi’ite power and sideline Iraqiya. The political blocs began talks last week to try to organize a national conference to resolve their differences.
A series of bombings in Shi’ite areas of the capital on December 22 killed at least 72 people and wounded 200 others. Scores more were killed in attacks targeting Shi’ite pilgrims this month.
(Writing by Aseel Kami; Editing by Jim Loney and Mark Heinrich)
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