The interim government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has reinstated the death penalty, Minister of State Adnan al-Janabi announced at an August 8 Baghdad press conference. According to a Reuters account of his remarks, al-Janabi said the move was a necessity, would last indefinitely, and would be effective immediately.
Capital punishment was common under Saddam Hussein, and his indiscriminate use of it constituted part of the brief against him for brutality. US occupation authorities abolished the death penalty after seizing the country last year. But faced with a murderous, multi-faceted insurgency, the Iraqi interim government has hinted since its inception June 28 that it wanted to re-impose the ultimate sanction.
While couched in the language of security and protecting Iraqis against political violence, the government order imposes the possibility of a death sentence not only for murder and the "execution of terrorism," as well as financing terrorism or attacking transport convoys, but also for crimes including rape, kidnapping and drug trafficking. "This law is to help protect the Iraqi people in the face of an onslaught of indiscriminate murder. I think it may help," al-Janabi said.
Drug use and the drug traffic are reportedly on the rise in post-Hussein Iraq (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/287/drugsiniraq.shtml), but no one has claimed that the drug traffic there is financing any of the murky groups opposing the US occupation and/or the interim government.
While the death penalty is deemed legal and widely accepted in the US, the European Union had pressured Iraq not to reinstate it. Britain, a close US ally in Iraq, was typical of European opinion. "If the Iraqi government has reintroduced the death penalty we will lobby them to abolish it as we would do with other states that have the death penalty," a spokesman at London's Foreign Office told Reuters.
Joining al-Janabi in unveiling the new death penalty law was Iraqi human rights minister Bakhtiar Amin. Exiled under Saddam Hussein, Amin has been a prominent and ardent campaigner against the death penalty for decades. "This is the most difficult day of my life," he told reporters. "I personally hate to see anyone put to death," said Amin. "There is nothing humane, there is no humane way of doing it."