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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: National assembly could broaden death penalty

BAGHDAD, 20 September 2005 (IRIN) - The Iraqi National Assembly last week started debating proposals to broaden anti-terrorism laws to include the death penalty for perpetrators of "terrorist acts" and their accomplices.

There is however widespread opposition from Sunni Arabs who insist such a law – which parliamentarians say is likely to be approved by the end of September – could be used unfairly to target them.

"We have to make criminals afraid of what they have been doing with the life of Iraqis and the only way ... is adopting the death penalty for those who carry out terrorist acts countrywide," Laith Kubba, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, said on Sunday.

The death penalty, he added, would be adopted as a juridical law not based in the constitution. It would be extended to offenses such as attacking government buildings, using explosives to kill people and advocating sectarian violence, as part of "anti-terrorism legislation".

Other crimes that could attract the penalty would include attacking Iraqi security forces, kidnapping for political, sectarian, ethnic or racial purposes and forming armed gangs.

Human rights groups say expanding the use of the death penalty could destroy the possibility of a democratic and humanitarian Iraqi nation.

"We are totally against terrorism acts but the use of the death penalty does not make a difference because you are punishing a crime with other. We ask the Iraq government to review this decision carefully and stop it urgently," the Middle East spokeswoman for Amnesty International, Nicole Choueiry, said on Monday.

Muhammad Dihar, a Sunni National Assembly member, maintained that the death penalty could be misused.

"We are against the use of death penalty for terrorism acts because it will target wrong people due to the bad image that all Sunni are insurgents. It would be better to put these criminals in prison and not kill someone without confirmation."

On 17 September, hundreds Sunnis poured onto the streets in protest against the proposed law. Sunni religious leaders have also criticised the use of the death penalty.

"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 earlier in Baghdad

Kubba insisted the new law would improve the security situation in Iraq. "I believe that the use of death penalty is the best way to keep security and change the image of the government from being an impotent administrator," he said.

The death penalty was abolished in Iraq at the start of the United States war in April 2003, but reinstated for crimes including murder, kidnapping and drug-running in August 2004 amid protests from European nations and human rights groups.

On 1 September, the first executions since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime were carried out when three men convicted of murder, rape and kidnapping were hanged in the southeastern city of Kut. The decision was highly criticised by human rights organisations and the United Nations.

Themes: (IRIN) Human Rights




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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