An Iraqi court has sentenced 40 men to death over the massacre of hundreds of military recruits in Tikrit, a statement said.
The central criminal court in Baghdad found 40 of 47 defendants guilty of involvement in the “Speicher” massacre of June 2014, named after the base near where the victims were captured before being executed.
“The court ordered the execution of 40 convicted of involvement in the incident, while seven were released for lack of evidence,” the spokesman for Iraq’s judiciary, Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar, said in the statement.
He did not say how many were present at the trial and provided no details on each defendant’s involvement in the massacre, nor on the circumstances of their arrest.
Bayraqdar said the sentences were handed down in accordance with Article Four of Iraq’s anti-terrorism law, which states that anyone who perpetrates, incites, plans, finances or assists acts of terrorism will be sentenced to death.
But Amnesty International on Thursday criticised “a fundamentally flawed mass trial” which it said brought the number of death sentences handed down by Iraqi courts this year to 92.
“For Iraqi courts to hand down 92 death sentences in just six weeks is a grim indicator of the current state of justice in the country,” the rights watchdog’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director James Lynch said in a statement.
“The vast majority of the trials have been grossly unfair, with many of the defendants claiming to have been tortured into ‘confessing’ the crimes,” he said.
In a similar trial in July 2015, 24 men were sentenced to hang over the Speicher massacre, which was committed during the first days of the Islamic State group’s lightning offensive in Iraq.
All of them denied involvement.
Some had said they were not even near Tikrit at the time, others that they never saw a lawyer and that the confessions used to secure convictions were obtained under torture.
Rights groups had criticised the trial as not meeting many of the standards required for such crimes.
The highest estimate for the number of men murdered in the Speicher massacre is 1,700. Tikrit was retaken from IS in April 2015.