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Iraq executes scores of prisoners in first 40 days of 2012

The execution binge could give Iraq the second highest execution rate in the world, after China.

Iraq executions increasingEnlarge
Posters of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki with a noose around his neck (L) and with half his face metamorphosing into the late President Saddam Hussein (R) are seen plastered to a hut painted in the colours of the Iraqi flag, in the restive district of Sadr City in east Baghdad on May 14, 2008. (Wisam al-Okaili/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iraq has executed at least 65 prisoners in the first 40 days of 2012, including 34 in one day, Reuters and the BBC reported.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Iraq's rapid escalation of its number of executions was "terrifying". Pillay spoke after Jan. 17, when Iraq executed 34 prisoners in one day.

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Iraq outlawed capital punishment from 2003 to 2004, but after sectarian violence flared, it was reintroduced, Reuters reported. 

Amnesty International, which is opposed to the death penalty, raised concerns about the fairness of Iraq's judicial system in its 2011 Annual Report: "Trials consistently failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial; defendants frequently alleged that they had been forced to sign 'confessions' under torture or other duress while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention and were unable to choose their own defence lawyers," Amnesty said, according to BBC.

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Over two thirds of the world's countries have abolished the death penalty, according to Amnesty, but the new numbers would put Iraq near the top of execution rates in the world. China executed "thousands" of prisoners in 2010, according to Amnesty International, and Iran came in second with 252. But with this year's rate at more than one per day, Iraq is on track to surpass Iran. By comparison, Amnesty calculated that Iraq executed "at least one" prisoner in 2010.