Amnesty International has called on Iraqi authorities to halt the upcoming executions of five top officials from Saddam Hussein's regime, including two of the dictator's half-brothers.
The group were transferred to Iraqi custody on Thursday after being held by the US military, and a spokesman for Baghdad's justice ministry has said they are expected to be executed within a month.
In addition to criticising the use of the death penalty in a statement published on Monday, the London-based rights watchdog voiced concern over the fairness of trials under the presiding court, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, arguing it "has been subject to repeated political interference."
"While the Iraqi authorities have a responsibility to bring to justice those responsible for the gross human rights crimes committed under Saddam Hussein, they must not use the death penalty under any circumstances," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director, said.
"These men must not be executed," he added in the statement.
The group handed over on Thursday included two of Saddam's half-brothers -- Watban Ibrahim Hassan, a former interior minister, and Sabawi Ibrahim al-Tikriti, a former chief of Saddam's intelligence service.
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Also transferred, and slated to be executed, were former defence minister Sultan Hashem Ahmed and ex-generals Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti and Aziz Saleh Numan.
The five were sentenced to death in different trials from 2007 to 2011.
"They (the five officials) will be executed within one month," justice ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said on Friday.
The 206 prisoners transferred were being held by US forces at a detention facility on Baghdad's outskirts, formerly known as Camp Cropper. Although the site was handed over to Iraq on July 15, 2010, American soldiers were charged with holding the group of high-value detainees.
Saddam, who was deposed in a 2003 US-led invasion, himself spent three years in Camp Cropper until his execution on December 2006.
Around 47,000 US soldiers remain stationed in Iraq, with all set to withdraw by the end of the year under a bilateral security pact.