Iraq executions condemned

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has criticised Iraq for executing 34 people on a single day last week.

She called the number of executions on 19 January "terrifying", saying there were "major concerns about due process and fairness of trials".The UN says the total number of people sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004 is believed to be more than 1,200.

Amnesty International said Iraq executed 12 people on a single day last November for terrorism offences.On 19 January, Iraqi state TV quoted a statement from the Ministry of Justice, saying that 34 people had been executed for what were described as terrorism-related offences.

Concerns over confessions

"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," said Ms Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Most disturbingly, there was not a single report of anyone on death row in Iraq being pardoned, despite well-documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress," she went on.At least 63 people are thought to have been executed in Iraq in the past two months, estimates UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Ms Pillay also highlighted concerns about forced confessions, pointing out there were no reports of anyone on death row being pardoned.Her statement echoed the findings by Amnesty International in its 2011 report on human rights in Iraq.

"Trials consistently failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial; defendants frequently alleged that they had been forced to sign 'confessions' under torture or other duress while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention and were unable to choose their own defence lawyers," Amnesty said.

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