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Oct 19, 12:54 PM EDT

UN says Iraq has executed 60 people this year


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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi authorities have executed at least 60 people so far in 2014, a United Nations report said Sunday, expressing concern that "irreversible miscarriages of justice" were taking place in some death penalty cases.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special envoy to Iraq, urged the Iraqi government to reconsider its position on the implementation of the death penalty. Mladenov said the high number of executions in Iraq is "alarming, especially since many of these convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice."

The U.N. report said the figure accounted for executions carried out during the first nine months of 2014. In comparison the United States, which has a population more than 10 times larger than Iraq's, has executed 30 people so far in 2014, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The death penalty, used under longtime dictator Saddam Hussain and briefly cancelled after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, was restored in Iraq in 2005. Hanging is the primary method used, and death sentences are applicable for a range of offences, including acts of terrorism. As of August 2014 some 1,724 Iraqi prisoners were awaiting execution, according to the U.N. report, citing Iraqi justice ministry figures.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber set off his explosive belt near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad's western district of Harthiya, killing 18 people, mostly Shiite worshippers, and wounding 32 others, said police officials.

Just north of Baghdad, police said a roadside bomb hit an army patrol, killing three soldiers and wounding four others.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualties from both attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The extremist Islamic State group however considers Shiites heretics. The IS group has captured large chunks of territory in western and northern Iraq, plunging the country into its worst crisis since U.S. troops left at the end of 2011. U.S. warplanes have been carrying out airstrikes against the group as Iraqi and Kurdish security forces work to retake territory it has seized.

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