[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Apr 12 17:35:52 CDT 2012
Only in Iraq: human rights ministry supports death penalty
Human rights advocates are mostly opposed to capital punishment. Except in
Iraq, where the Ministry of Human Rights thinks it’s OK if there’s a fair
trial. And their attitude reflects that of many Iraqis, who see it as a fitting
punishment for terrorists.
The father of Iraqi man, Ammar Hamid, is unashamed as he tells how his son
ended up on death row in Baghdad. “He didn’t mean to kill his friend,” Hamid
senior says, somewhat bitterly- he’s told this story many times. “His mistake
was to agree to act as a look out. But he didn’t shoot or kill anyone!”
Hamid knows his son was involved, along with several other men, in the murder
of an acquaintance. But he doesn’t believe he should be sentenced to death for
his part in the crime. And the Hamid family has already spent what is a
comparatively huge amount of money on their son’s legal defence: US$16,000 in
an attempt to change the sentence from death to life imprisonment.
But it’s been 5 months since the verdict was passed by one of the country’s
highest courts of appeal and as Hamid’s father now says, “with every day that
passes, our hopes diminish”.
Hamid’s son Ammar is one of hundreds of Iraqis waiting to be executed by the
state: many of those on death row are in custody at Abu Ghraib prison, west of
Baghdad. According to Human Rights Watch, a New York based monitoring
organization, “since the beginning of 2012, Iraq has executed at least 65
prisoners, 51 of them in January, and 14 more on February 8, for various
In their annual report, another human rights group, Amnesty International,
noted a surge in executions in the Middle East region in 2011, with Saudi
Arabia, Iran and Iraq the main culprits.
However it seems that abolishing the death penalty in a country like Iraq is
more difficult than one might first assume. The Iraqi government supports
capital punishment and so it seems, do most of the public. Unlike in countries
like the US where there are surveys on the contentious issue – a 2011 poll
found that around 60 percent of Americans favoured it in murder cases - capital
punishment is not a heavily debated subject in Iraq.
Under Saddam Hussein, over one hundred different crimes were potentially
punishable by death. After Hussein’s government was toppled by a US-led
invasion in 2003, the first interim government established by the Americans
suspended capital punishment.
However little more than a year later capital punishment was re-introduced
albeit for a smaller set of mostly violent crimes. Some felt that the decision
to bring back the death penalty was motivated, in part, by a general desire to
inflict that punishment on the former leader, Hussein, who would go on trial
Even the Hamid case illustrates this. The family of the murdered man said they
would kill a member of the accused’s family, if Hamid’s son’s punishment was
commuted to life in prison.
While United Nations figures suggest that more than 1,200 people have been
sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004. Figures obtained by NIQASH from the
Ministry of Justice indicate that from 2004 up until the end of 2010, 1145
people were sentenced to death and around 250 have been executed, 84 of them in
2010. Those numbers would have increased due to executions in late 2011 and
early 2012, totalling at least 63.
The Iraqi government justifies the executions by arguing that only the death
penalty can deter terrorist acts. And somewhat unusually, this sentiment is
iterated by the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights. According to a Ministry
spokesperson, Kamil Amin, death by hanging is suitable as long as there has
been a fair trial.
“The Iraqi justice system is dealing with major crimes that have resulted in
many victims and the death penalty is often the minimum price, one that deters
the criminals and satisfies the victims,” Amin explained. Capital punishment,
he said, was “overwhelmingly popular”.
In general public sentiment does seem to indicate that, outside of some human
rights groups in the country, Iraqis are not overly opposed to capital
punishment. As one state adviser told news weekly Time in 2005 when capital
punishment was re-introduced in Iraq after that temporary suspension: “from the
Iraqi point of view, they [the people] don't like to see a lot of people get
killed every day and have a low number of executions”.
“Parliament cannot ignore the blood of Iraqi people killed in terrorist attacks
around the country,” MP Abdul Mahdi Al-Khafaji, a member of the parliamentary
committee on human rights, said. “And criticism from international
organizations, as well as their demands that capital punishment be abolished,
is unjustified – particularly as long as the security situation remains so
unstable in Iraq.”
Since 2003, al-Khafaji explains, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been
killed by terrorists. “It’s difficult to persuade people who have suffered in
this way to give up their rights to call for the death penalty,” he argued.
The parliamentary committee on security and defence supports the death penalty
for similar reasons. “Abandoning capital punishment will create tensions and
negatively impact on the stability and security of the country,” MP and
committee member, Qasim al-Araji, said.
On the other hand, officials say that while capital punishment could be applied
to around 50 different types of crimes in Iraq, it is actually only ever called
for in the most serious cases, such as premeditated murder, kidnapping and
murder or terrorism.
And Amin adds that a long legislative process is required, including several
courts of appeal, before the death penalty is imposed. “This ensures fair
trials,” Amin said.
However, as one might expect, various human rights groups in Iraq still have
plenty of problems with capital punishment in Iraq.
“Of course, torture and coercion is not seen in court,” media law expert, Hasan
Shaaban, said. “However it does happen in police stations.”
Well known human rights activist, Hanaa Edward, head of the Al Amal (Hope)
organization which works in women’s rights and in other areas, was quick to
explain why she is opposed to capital punishment.
“Even criminals have the right to life,” Edward argued. “And those who want to
keep the death penalty are looking at it from the point of view of punishment.
They’re not thinking about reducing crime rates – there’s no relation between
the death penalty and lowering crimes rates,” she added.
But even Edward admits that it won’t be easy for Iraq to abandon capital
punishment. “Demands by civil society activists and international human rights
organizations won’t find favour with the Iraqi government unless there is a
decline in violence in the country,” she concluded.
This story was prepared as part of the Media academy Iraq’s mentorship
programme for young Iraqi journalists, together with NIQASH’s regular
correspondents around Iraq.
IHRDC Releases Latest Report – “On the Margins: Arrest, Imprisonment and
Execution of Kurdish Activists in Iran Today”
For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has led a targeted campaign of
repression against Kurdish activists within Iran’s borders. Today, this
persecution is particularly acute, with an estimated 14 Kurdish activists
currently on death row in Iran.
The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center’s latest 70-page report, “On the
Margins: Arrest, Imprisonment and Execution of Kurdish Activists in Iran
Today”, details the nature of this oppression and its violation of Iranian and
The report contains numerous witness testimonies from Kurdish activists who
were former political prisoners, and from the former cell mates, lawyers,
family and close friends and associates of Kurdish political prisoners who have
been executed or are currently on death row. The full testimonies of these
witnesses will be published in a special IHRDC release next month.
'Parliament should award death penalty for crimes against elderly'
A Delhi court Thursday urged parliament to award capital punishment in cases
where a senior citizen is the victim.
Additional Sessions Judge Narinder Kumar said: "This court feels that our wise
representatives in the parliament should provide for capital punishment in such
cases also where senior citizens are the victims, so as to teach a lesson to
the offenders and to deter others from indulging in crime against senior
The court's observation came while awarding 10 years rigorous imprisonment to
Sunil Kumar and Arjun Sharma in a robbery case. The court ruled that law has to
change with the passage of time.
The court said that the victim was a senior citizen aged 70. "The manner in
which the old helpless lady was blindfolded, confined in the bathroom and
robbed, gives a jolt to the judicial conscience of the court," said judge
The court added that day and night senior citizens are being targeted by
"We cannot say that senior citizens are fully safe. State is duty bound to
ensure them safety," said the court.
The court said that the object is to maintain peace in the society and punish
The court recommended that if the present remedy to prevent or curb such crimes
is inadequate, the concerned authorities have to ponder over for a better
"Even a doctor would enhance the dose of the drug to provide relief to his
patient. After all, epidemics require urgent and serious remedies," said the
According to the prosecution case, on May 19, 2009 evening, Kumar and Sharma
with Ravi(absconding) trespassed in the elderly woman's house in Karol Bagh.
(source: New Kerala)
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