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(New York) – Iraqi authorities should stay the execution of an imprisoned Libyan national, Adel Shalani, and provide information on his case, Human Rights Watch said today. The Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Shalani’s family informed them that Iraqi authorities recently transferred Shalani to the Iraqi prison where executions are conducted, indicating his execution may be imminent.

The Iraqi government has not made public the specific charges against Shalani. According to media reports, an Iraqi court sentenced him to death in late August 2012. Other aspects of his trial, such as whether he had access to counsel of his choosing and an adequate opportunity to present a defense, as are required under international law, are unknown.

“The possibility that Iraq might execute Ahmed Shalani without revealing even basic information about his case highlights grave concerns about Iraq’s justice system,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Iraqi government should immediately stay Shalani’s execution.”

On December 7, 2012, the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the Iraqi government to postpone implementation of the death sentence against Shalani.

Four other Libyan nationals are reportedly also on death row on unknown charges in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said. According to media reports, Ahmed Shami, an envoy sent to Iraq by the Libyan government to address the cases of Libyans arrested there, was himself arrested in October. Whether Shami has been charged with an offense remains unknown.

International human rights law requires that where the death penalty has not been abolished, it should be imposed only for the most serious crimes and after scrupulous adherence to international fair trial standards. Trials in Iraq often violate these minimum guarantees, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and in all circumstances because the inherent dignity of the person is inconsistent with the death penalty. This form of punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

A majority of countries in the world have abolished the practice. On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution by a wide margin calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

The government of Iraq should place an immediate stay on all pending death sentences and issue a public and permanent moratorium on any use of the death penalty until it permanently abolishes capital punishment, Human Rights Watch said. Iraq should also order a thorough and impartial investigation into the scores of executions that took place earlier in 2012. 

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