Iraq is executing more people than it has done for almost a decade. The country now has the third highest number of executions in the world, according to a report to be published this week.
The country, which saw the biggest rise in confirmed killings in just twelve months of anywhere else in the globe, executed at least 129 people last year, according to a global report by Amnesty International. This is almost double the number recorded in 2011 and the highest figure in the last eight years. So far, 16 people have been executed since January, according to the human rights organisation, with four being put to death in the last week alone.
Amnesty International’s UK director Kate Allen told The Independent on Sunday: “The global trend on the death penalty is toward abolition or at least a decrease in its use, but Iraq is bucking that trend in a disturbing way. The staggering scale of executions we’re seeing in Iraq has taken us back to the bad old days of large-scale executions under Saddam [Hussein].”
Other countries that saw an increase in executions in the last year include India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia, which carried out the first execution in almost three decades. Most executions in Iraq were carried out for terrorism-related offences or murder. Many of the cases which ended in a sentence of death “failed to meet international standards for fair trials, including the use of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture and other ill-treatment,” said the report.
Saddam’s presidential secretary and bodyguard, Abid Hamid Mahmud, was amongst those executed in 2012, as part of a crackdown on opposition political activists. Executions were carried out in batches; 34 people were killed in a single day last June. At least five women were executed, and at least two were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office said the government was “deeply concerned by the increase in executions in Iraq.” He added: “The UK opposes the use of the death penalty as a matter of principle and we continue to urge the Iraqi Government to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”