Iraq - Committee Against Torture - Death Penalty - June 2020

The Advocates for Human Rights, together with The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, submitted a Suggested List of Issues on the death penalty in Iraq for the 70th session of the Committee Against Torture.

The Iraqi government fails to uphold its obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Current law does not limit the imposition of the death penalty to the most serious crimes. For example, Iraq retains the death penalty for drug trafficking. In 2019, Iraq had the fourth-highest number of executions in the world. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of executions nearly doubled from around 50 in 2018 to at least 100 in 2019.

This high number of executions is particularly concerning in light of evidence of due process violations, including the use of torture to extract confessions, inadequate access to counsel for people accused of capital crimes, a lack of transparency in court proceedings, and the reluctance of judicial authorities to investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture. In addition, access to counsel is inadequate, particularly for individuals accused of terrorism-related offenses. Iraq does not have laws or judicial guidelines requiring judges to follow a certain course of action when defendants allege torture or ill-treatment or when they seek to dispute the veracity of their confessions.

The authors of the report of the list of issues suggest the following questions for the Government of Iraq:

  • What steps have Iraqi authorities taken to reduce the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and to limit the availability of the death penalty to the “most serious” crimes?
  • For all convictions based on terrorism-related charges, please describe the factual circumstances that formed the basis for the conviction and sentence, whether any evidence in mitigation was presented to the court, and whether the court acknowledged any mitigating evidence.
  • What procedures are in place to promote public transparency with respect to criminal proceedings in which a person may be sentenced to death and with respect to death sentences and executions?
  • What procedures exist when a defendant in a criminal proceeding alleges having been tortured or otherwise ill-treated? What measures are taken to hold persons who commit acts of torture accountable and to compensate victims of torture?
  • How do courts ensure that evidence obtained under torture is not used to obtain a conviction in any case other than the prosecution of the person responsible for the alleged torture?
  • Please provide information about all cases in which officials have been criminally prosecuted for committing acts of torture against suspects or defendants in criminal proceedings, including the outcomes of those cases.
  • How does the judiciary ensure that defense counsel in terrorism-related cases is able to present all relevant mitigating evidence and that courts consider all evidence that warrants a sentence other than death?