Iraq: army deserters to be executed

Iraqi soldiers who desert their units now face execution, according to a decree by the country's Presidential Council. The offense is the latest of nearly 200 others convicted Iraqis are to be punished with death penalty. The council slapped three-year imprisonment on absentee soldiers.

The harsh penalties come following reports of large-scale desertion from army ranks in the wake of the latest surge in rebel attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. The penalties are also applicable to the cadets of military academies in the country.

Turning desertion into an offense punishable by death comes amid mounting criticism from human rights groups that Iraq has become one of the world's highest users of death penalty.

Amnesty International, for example, says that more than 100 people have been hanged since mid-2004 after unfair trials and 270 others are on the death row.

Source: Azzaman.com, 23 April 2007