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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Response to death penalty being used to control violence

BAGHDAD, 23 May 2005 (IRIN) - International human rights organisations have raised concern over the Iraqi prime ministers’ recent announcement that the death penalty would be implemented as a way to control ongoing violence and insurgency in the country.

“It’s true that they have been having serious security problems in the country but the death penalty certainly is not appropriate. What they are doing is just suppressing human rights in the country. We are against this decision,” Middle East spokeswoman for Amnesty International (AI), Nicole Choueiry, told IRIN from their London headquarters.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, announced on 16 May in Baghdad that the death sentence would be retained and that the new government would be prepared to use it. He added that insurgents were trying to start open warfare between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

Iraq's interim government reinstated the death penalty for crimes including murder, kidnapping and drug running in August 2004.

Al-Jaafari vowed to concentrate efforts on anyone targeting Shi’ites and Sunnis.

"The new government will strike with an iron fist against any criminal who tries to harm a Sunni or a Shi'ite citizen,” he said. His speech came amid an increase in violence which has resulted in the deaths of more than 490 people since his government was formed on 28 April 2005.

Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) officials told IRIN that the use of the death penalty was an abuse of international human rights laws. They said this should be taken into consideration when drafting the new constitution, which should promote human rights and not take them away.

A senior official at the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR), who did not want to be named, said that the situation was very sensitive and should be dealt with carefully when drafting the new constitution. He added that the decision could trigger pressure from international humanitarian groups worldwide. The ministry has not responded to the prime ministers remarks.

The decision of whether to implement the death penalty under the new constitution has sparked reaction from some local religious leaders.

“No human can determine if a person can live or not. It is in the hands of God. Our community is totally against this idea and will fight it. We cannot use death to correct the insecurity. You will just be taking more lives and if charged they should pay in prison and not in graves,” Sheikh Omar Shaker, a Sunni senior religious leader, told IRIN in the capital, Baghdad.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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