The death penalty in Iraq was suspended after Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003. But a year later it was reinstated by the interim government. Since that time, claims Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, hundreds of prisoners have been executed. Many are believed to be insurgents, but according to Mr Fisk, no public record is kept of these executions and it is likely that most of them take place without a fair trial.
Mr Fisk, who writes for British newspaper The Independent and published an article on this subject in the 7 October 2008 edition, says:
“In many cases the prisons themselves are ruled and governed by armed men – loyal to one or another ministry – who are keen to rub out the militias who are rivals to them. So there is no guarantee at all that any of these executed men – some of them hanged, some shot in the face with pistols – have gone through any judicial process.
You have to understand that in a society which is very patro-linear as well as patriarchal like Iraq, many people have the same name and it’s only by having the full name that you work out whereabouts in the family or tribe they are and what their actual identity is.”
Executions “were legal”
Mr Hamza Kamel, spokesman for the Iraqi ministry of human rights, reacted to Mr Fisk’s allegation on al-‘Arabiyya TV. He said that, up to 2007, there had been about 100 executions, but that all of them were legal according to Iraqi law and carefully recorded. Mr Fisk, however, remains sceptical.
“Executions began very shortly after the American occupation. And we only found out about them four weeks later. And these were executions which were staged in Mosul. No human rights department knew anything about them at the time. Many of the executed men who are found at roadsides across Iraq are in fact rubbed out by government employees working for various ministries of which the human rights official has no knowledge whatsoever. And if he does, he certainly would not be disclosing it to us!”Mr Fisk’s report is based on accounts of westerners who work in Iraq and have been inside the prisons. He says that for their security, he cannot disclose their identities.
Many of the executions, usually hangings, take place in a small wooden ‘deathroom’ in Saddam Hussein’s old intelligence headquarters at Kazimiyah, a Shi’a neighbourhood outside Baghdad’s Green Zone. One of Mr Fisk’s sources, who has been inside the prison, provided him with gruesome details of a particular incident:
“One man they tried to hang three times, [they] even dug up the floor to make the noose longer and when that failed they shot him in the face. This is the kind of justice that people face when they go inside the execution chambers of the Iraqi prisons.”
Manfred Nowak, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, will visit Iraq this week to investigate prison abuse. Mr Nowak expects the government to grant him full access to Iraqi-run detention facilities.
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