Iraq Reinstates Capital Punishment

Iraq reinstated capital punishment for people guilty of murder, endangering national security and distributing drugs, the government announced Sunday, saying the death penalty was necessary to help put down the country's persistent insurgency.

The announcement came a day after the government offered an amnesty to Iraqis who committed minor crimes since the fall of Saddam Hussein's (search) regime last year. The two laws were part of a carrot-and-stick approach by the government to try to put down the 15-month-old campaign of violence.

Capital punishment (search) was suspended during the U.S. occupation. Under Saddam's regime, some 114 offenses could garner the death penalty. The new law was more restrictive than that had been.

"This is not an open door to execute anyone and everyone, or people whom the government dislikes. This is not Saddam's law," Minister of State Adnan al-Janabi (search) said.

Many Iraqis also wanted the death penalty reinstated so it could be applied to Saddam, who faces trial on war crimes charges. It was not immediately clear how the new law would effect Saddam.

In announcing the law, Janabi and Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin (search) said they regretted the need to bring back the death penalty, but it was needed to fight the militants destabilizing the country with car bombings, kidnappings, sabotage and other violence.

"The tough task in front of us in this country is maintaining security and stability, combatting terror and organized crime," Amin said. "I assure you that none of us in the government are comfortable with reinstating capital punishment."

When security returns to the country, the law will be revoked, they said. The law did not specify how the executions were to be carried out, or if they were to be done in public or private.