Iraq has executed 42 prisoners convicted of terrorism-related charges in the last two days, the Justice Ministry has said, defying international condemnation of its extensive use of the death penalty amid escalating violence.
The ministry said on Thursday that all 42 executed, including a woman, over the past two days were Iraqis convicted of "terrorist crimes, killing dozens of innocents in addition to other crimes aimed at destabilising the country, causing chaos and spreading horror".
The statement was accompanied by a photo of a noose on a black background, a reference to the way in which executions in Iraq are usually carried out.
Human rights groups have questioned trial procedures in Iraqi courts, alleging that some verdicts are based on testimony obtained by torture or forced statements against the accused.
"The escalation in the number of executions in recent days is an extremely alarming development," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Hours after the ministry statement, the UN mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI, renewed its call "to adopt a moratorium on the implementation of all death sentences" in pursuant to UN General Assembly resolutions.
The latest executions bring the number of people who have been put to death in Iraq this year to at least 132, compared to 129 executions in all of 2012, according to an tally by the AFP news agency based on reports from the justice ministry and officials.
A weak judiciary
Iraq executed 23 people in the two days of last month, 20 of them convicted on terrorism charges, the justice ministry said on October 1.
The growing resort to the death penalty comes as violence in Iraq has reached a level not seen since 2008. More than 230 people have been killed so far this month, and about 4,900 since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.
The executions have drawn widespread condemnation from the European Union, the United Nations and human rights groups.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said this year that Iraq's criminal justice system was "not functioning adequately".
She highlighted "numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary and trial proceedings that fall short of international standards".
But Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari insisted on Thursday that the executions were carried out only after an exhaustive legal process.
The death sentences "were appealed more than one time before appeals court judges to prove the accuracy of the sentences", Shammari said in the statement.