Iraq: Executing Terrorists
Has Iraq’s extensive use of the death penalty done anything to deter terrorism?
January 17, 2016
1. Iraq carried out the fourth-most executions (behind China, Iran and Saudi Arabia) in 2014, with at least 61 executions, according to Amnesty International. Escalation of armed conflict in some parts of the country during the year — including the rise of ISIS — makes the actual number difficult to confirm.
2. Shortly after invading Iraq in 2003, the United States temporarily suspended Iraq’s use of executions.
3. The deposed Ba’ath Party had used the punishment as a means of religious and political oppression. Existing death row inmates had to be sorted out.
4. Iraq’s death penalty was reinstated a year later and was used, most notably, in the December 2006 hanging of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity.
5. Over the past decade, the vast majority of executions in Iraq have been carried out for terrorism-related offences.
6. A 2005 Iraqi law made death the mandatory sentence for conviction for acts of terrorism or even support for terrorism. Many less serious offenses also carry the death penalty, contrary to global standards.
7. The 61 confirmed Iraqi executions in 2014, however, are a dramatic reduction from the 169 in 2013.
8. The frequent number of large-scale prison breaks in Iraq, particularly by terrorist groups freeing their fighters, may be a factor in the reliance on the death penalty to give more finality to the capture of major threats.
9. Iraqi officials, however, tend to claim more simply that frequent executions are legitimately grounded in local tradition.
Sources: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The Globalist Research Center