International Concern Over Miscarriage Of Justice As 36 Executed In Iraq

Iraq has faced criticism from human rights groups this week following the hanging executions of 36 people.

The 36 men were hanged on Sunday the 21st of August, after they were found guilty of involvement in the 2014 Speicher massacre, in which up to 1,700 Shi’ite military recruits were slaughtered as they fled from the former US Military base Camp Speicher, in Tikrit, after it was overrun by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Three hundred were killed in Baghdad last month in an attack claimed by the Islamic State, which has since been recognised as the “worst single bomb attack” to strike the city. Following such, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed his intentions to expedite the executions of those sentenced to death on terrorism charges.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized Abadi earlier this month, claiming that “[f]ast-tracking executions will only accelerate injustice.”

It is alleged that the many of the confessions of the 36 executed this week were obtained through torture. “The individuals who have been executed were convicted only on the basis of information provided by secret informants or by confessions allegedly extracted under duress”, Cécile Pouilly, a spokesperson for The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told the press.

Amnesty International reports that one of the executed men confessed to killing 60 recruits after threats were made towards his wife and sister, in addition to “being beaten with cables and given electric shocks […] video evidence [also] shows the man being punched in the face during interrogation and ‘confessing’ on Iraqi TV with a visible bruise under his right eye.”

Human Rights Watch has referred to the trials of the 36 men as “flawed” arguing that they “seriously undermined the battle for justice”, adding that the high-profile trial has been damaging to external perspectives on the Iraqi justice system.

In April, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released a report that found the trial “fell short of international fair trial standards, including the lack of an effective defence for the accused and failure to investigate allegations of torture.”

According to Amnesty International Iraq has already performed in excess of 100 executions in 2016, whilst the OHCHR estimates that a further 1,200 individuals remain on death row.

“There will be more executions” Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili promised during a ceremony to mark the hangings, attended by the families of the Speicher victims and broadcast on state TV, Reuters reported. The relatives that attended the execution were noticeably pleased with the outcome. “Thank you God, it’s a fair punishment for the worst crime” Najla Shaab, the widow of a Speicher massacre victim told The Guardian.

UN High Comissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein does not share the same sentiment. “Give then weakness of the Iraqi justice system, and the current environment in Iraq, I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been, and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice.”

Sebastien Miller