U.N. Human Rights Chief concerned over mass hanging in Iraq

Sept. 27 (UPI) — The United Nations’ human rights chief said Wednesday he is “appalled” at the mass execution of dozens of militants in Iraq last weekend.

Forty-two Sunni militants were hanged Sunday at the Al Hoot prison in Nasiriyah, for various crimes that include car bombings and killing military troops. It was Iraq’s largest mass execution so far this year.

“I am appalled to learn of the execution of 42 prisoners in a single day,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement Wednesday. “Under international law, the death penalty may only be imposed after a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements have been met.”

No information had been released regarding the individual cases, a point al-Hussein’s office finds concerning.

The human rights chief said he’s doubtful procedural requirements like due process and fair trial guarantees were met for all 42 prisoners killed Sunday. If their rights were not met, he said, the hangings constitute a “gross miscarriage of justice.”

Further, al-Hussein’s office said Baghdad might also be applying the death penalty for crimes not worthy of such punishment. He noted that if it’s used at all, death sentences should be reserved for only the most serious crimes.

Iraqi officials said the hanged prisoners were terrorists who’d been charged with killing, kidnapping, robbery and other offenses.

Al-Hussein, though, called for an immediate end to the practice.

“I urge Iraq to step back from its policy of accelerated or mass executions,” he said. “I also urge the authorities to halt all imminent executions and to establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”

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