On Sunday, the Iraqi government hanged 36 of those convicted of perpetrating the massacre, officials and activists said, in what was seen as the first measure of that long-sought justice, even as human rights activists raised concerns about the trials that convicted the defendants.
The mass execution was announced by Iraqi Justice Minister Haidar Zamili in a statement from the city of Nasiriya in Dhi Qar province, according to the online news outlet Arabi21. The provincial governor as well as families of those killed at Speicher were also in attendance at Nasiriya Central Prison.
“There were viewing areas for the families, the women on one side and the men on another. A man came and said, ‘I came today to tell you that the souls of the martyrs will rest,’” said Thaer Saadoun, a journalist with the local television station Ahwar who witnessed the executions.
“Some women ululated, and others immediately went on their knees and started praying right there. For the last two years, the families didn’t know where to go and to whom to complain, and they had gotten no response from the Iraqi government. The executions managed to mollify them a little,” he said in a phone interview.
Saadoun added that those executed Sunday were Iraqis, and some were from Dhi Qar.
Forty convicts were sentenced to death in February, and an appeals court this month upheld the sentences of 36. Four remain on appeal.
The massacre at Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base outside Tikrit and roughly 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, occurred during Islamic State’s blitz offensive in June 2014 that saw the group take over wide swaths of northern and central Iraq.
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