Iraq: Christian cleric calls for abolition of death penalty

deathrowdudssess21w-200×1501.jpgBaghdad, 16 June (AKI) – The Chaldean archbishop of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk Louis Sako has condemned recent executions carried out by the Iraqi government and called for the abolition of the death penalty. Sako spoke to the Italian Bishops’ Conference news agency, SIR, after the European Union also expressed concern.

“(The) Death penalty is a horrible deed. It is humanly and spiritually unjustifiable. It is an offence to life and to the maker,” said Sako quoted by SIR on Tuesday. “Problems are not solved by death.”

Sako criticised Baghdad after the European Union said on Monday that it was “deeply disturbed” over reports about the number of executions in Iraq and warned that more were “imminent”.

According to reports received by the EU, about 20 executions appear to have been carried out “over the last few days”, while “new mass executions” were being prepared.

Rights group Amnesty International expressed similar concern following a decision to execute at least 12 people in May.

“Problems are not solved by the death penalty. There are prisons and other ways to pursue justice. Life is the greatest thing,” said Sako.

“Iraq is still going through an unstable situation. Some improvements have been made, but abductions, explosions and murders continue,” he said.

“Iraq must move towards a constitutional state, and to do this takes time, reconciliation and educating people and consciences to avoid retaliation.”

The death penalty was abolished after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, it was reinstated in 2004.

A delegation of Chaldean archbishops, including Sako visited the Italian capital Rome in late January to ask Pope Benedict XVI to call a general synod or church council to create a strategy to prevent Christians from leaving the Middle East.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, but hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Iraq to escape the violence and the economic crisis caused by the war.