EU “disturbed” by Iraq executions, calls for freeze

The European Union protested against reported executions in Iraq on Monday and called on Baghdad to resume a moratorium on the death penalty.

“The European Union is deeply disturbed at reports that in recent days further death sentences were carried out in Iraq, probably totalling number 20,” the Czech EU presidency said.

“Moreover, the European Union is severely alarmed about indications that further mass executions might be imminent,” the EU said in a statement.

The presidency did not specify which executions it referred to. A Czech official told Reuters that EU diplomatic sources in Baghdad had information of recent executions but gave no details.

Baghdad reintroduced the death penalty in 2004 after it was suspended following the U.S.-led invasion a year earlier and has been conducting executions regardless of numerous calls from the international community to suspend them.

Rights groups have warned trials ending in death sentences are often poorly conducted.

“The EU … urges the government of Iraq to resume the de facto suspension of the execution of death penalty, which had been observed in Iraq since August 2007, pending legal abolition,” the Czech presidency statement said.

“This suspension should include all cases still on death row in Iraq.”

The United Nations urged Baghdad in May to reconsider its resumption of the death penalty, saying Iraq’s justice system was not conducting fair trials.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on May 31 that former members of Saddam Hussein’s government on trial for ordering poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages will be executed if found guilty. (Reporting by Jana Mlcochova; Editing by Louise Ireland)