Monday, August 3, 2009

Amnesty International: Nine Iraqi Women face imminent execution

One of condemned women says she was tortured into falsely confessing

Amnesty International is warning that at least nine women in Iraq are facing imminent execution after recently having their death sentences confirmed.

Amnesty has learnt that Iraq's Presidential Council has ratified death sentences against the women and that a number of women prisoners have recently been transferred to the 5th section (al-Shu'ba al-Khamisa) of Baghdad's al-Kadhimiya Prison, where condemned prisoners are usually held immediately before execution. At least three women have already been executed since early June.

Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said:

'We are very concerned that these women could be executed at any moment.

'It is not known whether the women had fair trials, though recent trials involving capital charges in Iraq have been far from fair.

'The Iraqi authorities should halt these executions, commute the sentences and guarantee that no-one else in the country is dragged to the scaffold.'

Iraq's use of capital punishment became notorious after the botched hanging of Saddam Hussein in late 2006. Since Iraq reinstated capital punishment in 2004 (the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty after the fall of Saddam Hussein), the country has sentenced to death approximately 1,000 people. Scores of people have been executed, with at least 34 killed last year alone. There are no official figures for the number of prisoners now facing execution.

One of the women in imminent danger is Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah. She was sentenced to death in August 2005 for the murder of her uncle, his wife and one of their children. Samar has protested that her fiancé committed the killings in order to rob her uncle. It is not known whether he has been arrested.

Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah's death sentence was upheld by Iraq's Cassation Court in February 2007. At her trial, she alleged that after her arrest she had been held at a police station in Hay al-Khadhra in Baghdad and tortured by being beaten with a cable, beaten on the soles of her feet (falaqa) and subjected to electric shocks to make her "confess." The judge failed to order an investigation into her allegations, and sentenced her to death after two hearings.

Among the other women who have been transferred to the 5th section of al-Kadhimiya Prison are Shuruq Hassun, Sabrine Nasser, Samira 'Abdullah, Um Hussain ("Mother of Hussain" - real name not known), Hanan (full name not known), Dhikra Fakhry and Wassan Talib. Other women, in addition to these, are also under sentence of death in Iraq.

In Iraq all death sentences must be confirmed by the Cassation Court, after which they are referred to the Presidential Council, composed of the President and the two Vice-Presidents, for ratification and implementation. The President, Jalal Talabani, opposes the death penalty and delegates his ratification powers to the two Vice-Presidents. All prisoners whose death sentences have been ratified by the Presidential Council are transferred to the 5th section of al-Kadhimiya Prison in Baghdad before they are executed.

In March the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council confirmed to Amnesty that the Presidential Council had ratified the death sentences of 128 people, 12 of whom were executed on 3 May.
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