Background Briefing

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V. The Death Penalty

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty as an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment.  As noted above, the death penalty will be widely applicable for crimes tried before the SICT.  Human Rights Watch expresses its grave concern that Article 30(a) of the SICT Statute makes the carrying out of death sentences handed down by the tribunal mandatory, by prohibiting the commutation of death sentences by any government official.  The mandatory application of the death penalty, without any opportunity for clemency, directly violates Iraq’s human rights obligations under the ICCPR. Article 6(4) of the ICCPR states that “anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.”

Article 30(b) requires that a sentence be executed no later than thirty days after a final decision is handed down.  This creates the possibility that a person charged in several cases can be tried, convicted and executed for one of those cases, before any other cases are subject to public trial, and as such is likely to deprive victims, witnesses and the Iraqi people as a whole of the opportunity to conclusively establish which individuals were legally responsible for some of the worst human rights violations in Iraq’s history.  The execution of convicted individuals while other charges are pending against them means that there may never be a public accounting of the evidence for and against them in relation to these events.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>October 2005