VII. 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 IHT.297 Human Rights Watch expresses its grave concern that article 27(2) of the IHT 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.” The Iraqi constitution provides that the President of the Republic is required to ratify death sentences before they are implemented,298 and thus the IHT Statute’s prohibition on amnesty or commutation appears to infringe upon the constitutional authority of the president.

Article 27(2) also requires that a sentence be executed no later than 30 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.

297 See note 39, above, concerning the history of the application of the death penalty in Iraq after 2003.

298 Constitution of Iraq, art. 72(h).