Saddam Hussein's half-brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, the former head of Iraq's  Revolutionary Court, were executed early on Monday.

Judicial system

"Iraq is a sovereign government exercising its judicial system to bring justice to those convicted for brutal crimes against humanity," Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman, said.

"Iraq is a sovereign government exercising its judicial system to bring justice to those convicted for brutal crimes against humanity"

Scott Stanzel,
White House spokesman
Stanzel said he did not know whether George Bush, the US president, had been informed of the latest hangings in advance as he was in the case of Saddam.

After Saddam's hanging on December 30, the Italian prime minister announced Italy's campaign for a moratorium on executions. He was supported by human rights groups.

"I believe in our European values and I take this occasion to thank Italy for all the initiatives that it announced so that, in the framework of the United Nations, we can work together to put an end to death penalty," Barroso said.

Ban Ki-Moon, the new UN secretary general, initially distanced himself from calls for a ban, saying "the issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide".
   
He changed his stance and urged Iraq to act with "restraint" over the death sentences for Saddam's accomplices.
   
The death penalty is banned in the EU, but exists in 68 nations around the world.