BAGHDAD — Iraq executed 14 people on a single day this week, most of them Al-Qaeda members, a senior justice ministry official said on Wednesday, bringing to at least 65 the number of executions so far this year.
"Fourteen Iraqis were executed yesterday (Tuesday)," the official said, asking not to be named. "They were convicted of terrorism and other crimes committed in 2006 and 2007."
"Most of them are from Al-Qaeda, among them the wali (leader) of Mosul," the official said.
The hangings bring the number of people executed in the first six weeks of this year close to the total of 68 for all of 2011.
Iraq executed 17 people on January 31, Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari was quoted in a statement at the time as saying.
Before those executions, ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said the authorities had so far hanged 34 people this year, including two women and a Syrian.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has expressed shock at the number of executions, criticising the lack of transparency in court proceedings and calling for an immediate suspension of the death penalty.
"I call on the government of Iraq to implement an immediate moratorium on the institution of the death penalty," she said last month.
"Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day," said Pillay, a South African high court judge.
Death sentences in Iraq must be signed by the country's president, currently Jalal Talabani, but the chief executive may delegate that authority to either of the two vice presidents. As Talabani is an ardent opponent of the death penalty, that is what he does.