Iraq executes 36 men convicted in ISIL massacre
AP PhotoIraq on Aug. 21 executed 36 men convicted of taking part in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s massacre of hundreds of soldiers in 2014, officials said.
The men were hanged at the Nasiriyah prison in southern Iraq, according to provincial Gov. Yahya al-Nasiri, the Associated Press reported. A Justice Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, confirmed the executions.
ISIL captured an estimated 1,700 soldiers after seizing Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in 2014. The soldiers were trying to flee from nearby Camp Speicher, a former U.S. base just outside the northern city. Shortly after taking Tikrit, ISIL posted graphic images of gunmen shooting the men dead after forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch.
“The governor of Dhiqar, Yahya al-Nasseri and Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili were present to oversee the executions,” Abdelhassan Dawood, a spokesman for the governor’s office in Dhiqar, the province of which Nasiriyah is the capital, told AFP.
“They were transferred to Nasiriyah last week after the president approved the executions,” he said, referring to the necessary green light from Fuad Masum.
The Speicher massacre sparked outrage across Iraq and partially fueled the mobilization of Shiite militias in the fight against ISIL, a Sunni extremist group. The militias now rival the power of Iraq’s conventional armed forces.
Iraqi forces arrested dozens of men allegedly linked to the massacre after retaking Tikrit in 2015 with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes. The men executed on Aug. 21 were sentenced to death by an Iraqi court earlier this year.
Amnesty International had slammed Iraq’s systematic resort to the death penalty following the execution of 22 other people in May this year.
“The use of the death penalty is deplorable in all circumstances, and it is particularly horrendous when applied after grossly unfair trials marred by allegations of confessions extracted under torture as is frequently the case in Iraq,” the group’s Iraq researcher Diana Eltahawy said.
The head of the provincial council in Salahuddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital, criticized the judicial process, saying some of the men executed on Aug. 21 had been tortured to extract confessions.
Some of them “were not even present at the scene of the crime,” Ahmed al-Karim told The Associated Press. “We support the death penalty for those who committed crimes,” but “the use of violence and torture [in Iraqi prisons] should be investigated.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has attempted to fast-track the implementation of death sentences following a series of large-scale bombings in and around Baghdad in recent months.