Thursday, November 19, 2009

Iraq's executions

Iraq is planning to execute up to 126 women by the end of this year. At least 9 may be hanged within the next two weeks. Human rights groups say the only crime committed by many of these women was to serve in the government of Saddam Hussein. Others, according to human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were convicted of common crimes based on confessions that were the result of torture.

The above is from Larry Johnson's "Iraq planning to hang up to 126 women by year's end" (Seattle PostGlobe). Iraq reintroduced the death penalty in 2004. Last September, Amnesty International released a report [PDF format warning] entitled "A Thousand People Face The Death Penalty In Iraq." In November of 2006, Brian Bennett (Time magazine) reported on the topic:

Since the Iraqi government reintroduced capital punishment in 2004, several executions have been beset by glitches and logistical snafus. At first, executioners used an old rope left over from Saddam's regime that stretched too much to break the condemned's neck; it sometimes took as long as eight minutes for the hanged to die. New ropes brought in for later executions jerked harder on the convicted person's spine, but executioners soon noticed the cords fraying on the bend of the reinforced steel installed in the cement ceiling of the gallows. During a recent round of executions, on Sept. 6, the rope snapped after 12 hangings, sending a condemned man plummeting 15 ft. through the trap door onto the hard concrete floor below. Miraculously, he survived. "Allah saved me!" he shouted. "Allah saved me!" For 40 minutes, prison guards, officials and witnesses engaged in heated arguments over whether or not to interpret the broken rope as divine intervention.

Robert Fisk (Independent of London) reported on the topic in October of 2008, noting the gruesome details:

The secrets of Iraq's death chambers lie mostly hidden from foreign eyes but a few brave Western souls have come forward to tell of this prison horror. The accounts provide only a glimpse into the Iraqi story, at times tantalisingly cut short, at others gloomily predictable. Those who tell it are as depressed as they are filled with hopelessness.
"Most of the executions are of supposed insurgents of one kind or another," a Westerner who has seen the execution chamber at Kazimiyah told me. "But hanging isn't easy." As always, the devil is in the detail.
"There's a cell with a bar below the ceiling with a rope over it and a bench on which the victim stands with his hands tied," a former British official, told me last week. "I've been in the cell, though it was always empty. But not long before I visited, they'd taken this guy there to hang him. They made him stand on the bench, put the rope round his neck and pushed him off. But he jumped on to the floor. He could stand up. So they shortened the length of the rope and got him back on the bench and pushed him off again. It didn't work."
There's nothing new in savage executions in the Middle East -- in the Lebanese city of Sidon 10 years ago, a policeman had to hang on to the legs of a condemned man to throttle him after he failed to die on the noose -- but in Baghdad, cruel death seems a speciality.
"They started digging into the floor beneath the bench so that the guy would drop far enough to snap his neck," the official said. "They dug up the tiles and the cement underneath. But that didn't work. He could still stand up when they pushed him off the bench. So they just took him to a corner of the cell and shot him in the head."

Meanwhile in the United States, Gidget Funetes (Navy Times) reports that Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, "rejected a clemency request from a Marine infantry squad leader convicted of killing an Iraqi man in 2006, a case that drew two jury convictions and five guilty please from seven other members of his squad." This is the case where US service members ("the Penleton 8") plotted to kill an Iraqi and went to his home April 26, 2006 only to find him not at home and instead grabbed another Iraqi whom they bound, dragged and shot dead. Jeanette Steele (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports Mabus was asked to review the case in terms of Lawrence Hutchins conviction and eleven year sentence and that Mabus denied Hutchins clemency and "also ordered that four of the other seven defendants in the case be discharged from the military." Mark Nero (LA Examiner) identifies the four, "Marine Lance Cpls. Tyler Jackson, Jerry Shumate and John Jodka III, and Navy Corpsman Melson Bacos were the servicemembers ordered removed. They had been originally been allowed to stay on active duty after serving short jail terms for lesser offenses."

In Iraq, the 'intended' January elections are in question as a result of the veto by Iraq's Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi. Waleed Ibrahim, Suadad al-Salhy, Aseel Kami and Deepa Babington (Reuters) reports that the MPs are stating presently they intend to ignore his objection and just revote on the same draft law -- while exploring whether or not he has the 'power' to veto. This will reportedly take place on Saturday.

Lynda notes Christian Schwagerl's "Obama Has Failed The World On Climate Change" (CounterCurrents):

Barack Obama cast himself as a "citizen of the world" when he delivered his well-received campaign speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008. But the US president has now betrayed this claim. In his Berlin speech, he was dishonest with Europe. Since then, Obama has neglected the single most important issue for an American president who likes to imagine himself as a world citizen, namely his country's addiction to fossil fuels and the risks of unchecked climate change. Health care reform and other domestic issues were more important to him than global environmental threats. He was either unwilling or unable to convince skeptics in his own ranks and potential defectors from the ranks of the Republicans to support him, for example by promising alternative investments as a compensation for states with large coal reserves.
Obama's announcement at the APEC summit that it was no longer possible to secure a binding treaty in Copenhagen, is the result of his own negligence. China, India and other emerging economies have always spoken openly about the fact that the US, as the world's largest emitter of CO2, has to be proactive in commiting itself to targets agreed on by way of international negotiation. But that is not America's style. The US is quite happy to see itself as the leader of the Western world. But when it comes to climate change, America has once again failed miserably -- for the umpteenth time.
If the rest of the world were to follow the US example in their approach to fossil fuels, the oceans would not only heat up, but would probably soon begin to boil. American CO2 emissions per capita are about twice as high as those in comparable industrialized nations and many times greater than those of the developing world. The climate change bill that is currently making its way through Congress does not go nearly far enough -- and that is Obama's fault. The bill proposed reducing CO2 emissions by a ridiculous 4 percent relative to 1990 levels, by 2020. Climate researchers believe that reductions of 40 percent or more are required.

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