Women face ‘imminent execution’ in Iraq

The London-based Women Solidarity for Unified and Independent Iraq has appealed to Arab governments to help save the lives of nine women believed to be facing imminent execution in Iraq.

Amnesty International says Iraq's presidential council has ratified the death sentences and a number the women prisoners have been transferred to the fifth section (al-shu'ba al-khamisa) of al-Kadhimiya prison in Baghdad, where condemned prisoners are usually held immediately before execution. At least three other women have already been executed since early June.

Under Saddam Hussein’s rule 114 offences carried a possible death sentence. The Americans suspended capital punishmentafter the invasion but in 2004 the Iraqi government reintroduced it for a range of violent crimes, as well as drug trafficking.

Since then, “use of the death penalty has been increasing at an alarming rate”, according to Amnesty. About 1,000 people have been sentenced to death since 2004 and last year alone at least 34 were actually executed.

Objections to the death penalty on principle are reinforced in Iraq’s case by the creaky state of its justice system where (in Amnesty’s words) “proceedings consistently fall short of international standards for fair trial”.

One of the women facing execution says she was tortured into making a confession, and the authorities have made no attempt to investigate whether her torture allegations are true.

Another woman, who was convicted of murdering her uncle, his wife and one of their children, maintains that her fiancé carried out the killings in order to rob her uncle. 

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 3 August 2009