Published: 2021-02-09 18:12
Last Updated: 2021-03-08 18:30
Iraq Monday executed five convicts on charges of "terrorism" in Nassiriya prison in the south of the country, according to security sources, despite international outcry in recent months over record executions in the country.
Security sources told AFP that the five men, all Iraqis, were executed in Nassiriya prison in Dhi Qar province, the only one in Iraq that carries out the death penalty.
Iraqis refer to Nassiriya prison as "the whale," describing it as a large prison complex that "swallows up" people.
A law passed in 2005 issues the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” a charge that may include membership in an extremist group, even if the accused has not been convicted of any specific acts.
Since Iraq declared its "victory" over Daesh in 2017, Iraqi courts have issued hundreds of death sentences against the members of the organization, but they have been executed only against a few of them because the matter requires the approval of the President of the Republic, Barham Salih, who is known to be an opponent of the death penalty.
Last month, the Iraqi authorities revealed that they had approvals to carry out more than 340 executions against those convicted of "committing terrorist or criminal acts."
A presidential source told AFP that most of these approvals date back to a stage prior to Saleh’s arrival to the presidency.
This mass execution on Tuesday is the second this year after three convicts accused of "terrorism" were hanged in Nasiriyah in late January following a double suicide attack on Baghdad that killed at least 32 people, which was claimed by Daesh.
- 'Political tool' -
Despite Saleh's moderate policy in this regard, Iraq ranks fourth among the countries that carry out the death penalty in the world, after China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International, which recorded a hundred executions in the country in 2019.
Although there are no public records for the year 2020, judicial sources told AFP that at least 30 executions were carried out during the past year.
Likewise, Iraqi courts have sentenced foreigners convicted of Daesh affiliation to death, including at least 11 French and Belgians, but none of these punishments were carried out.
Last November, the Iraqi authorities carried out the death sentence against 21 convicted of "terrorism" in Nasiriyah Central Prison.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, described these executions as "extremely worrying" and called on the Iraqi authorities to stop any further executions.
Human rights groups accuse the Iraqi judicial system of corruption, conducting hasty trials based on circumstantial evidence, and not allowing the defendants to obtain a fair trial.
And opponents of the death penalty considered that Iraq was stepping up executions with the aim of achieving political gains among the population who were still suffering from the trauma left by the Islamic State.
In the aftermath of the Daesh attack in January, calls spread on social media for the executions, with many criticizing Saleh for being too lenient.
Human Rights Watch researcher Belkis Wiley told AFP last month that Iraqi leaders often resort to announcing mass executions as a "sign" that they are taking attacks on civilians seriously.
"The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else," she added.