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Amnesty Calls For Halt To Executions In Iraq


BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Rights group Amnesty International has called on Iraq to halt executions, saying the woeful state of the justice system was unable to guarantee fair trials in capital cases.

Amnesty said more than 1,000 people were on death row in Iraq, including 12 women.

"One of these, 27-year-old Samar Saad Abdullah, facing execution for murder, has alleged that she was tortured into making a false confession, including with electric shocks and beatings with a cable," the rights group said.

"She reportedly received a trial lasting less than two days, where one of her lawyers was ordered out of the court by the trial judge."

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said the Iraqi justice system could barely cope with normal trials, let alone death penalty cases.

In the chaotic and lawless years following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, judges have been targeted by insurgents, courts have been overwhelmed by caseloads, and the system has been seen as tainted by corruption and lacking transparency.

"Instead of sending hundreds of people to a grisly death at the end of a rope, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate moratorium," Hancock said in a statement.

Amnesty has expressed concern frequently about the use of the death penalty in Iraq.

Executions were suspended after Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003 but were reintroduced by Iraqi authorities in 2004 with the argument that the death penalty was needed to combat a wave of sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents.

Saddam became Iraq's most high-profile recipient of the death penalty in December 2006.

The European Union has said it was disturbed by the number of executions being reported and the United Nations in May urged Iraq to reconsider its resumption of the death penalty.

Little information is given out in Iraq about executions.

A spokesman for the judicial system was not able to comment immediately on the latest Amnesty report and on its charge that 1,000 people were on death row. In May, government officials said there were 150 people awaiting execution after being convicted of serious crimes.
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