The Iraqi authorities should halt the imminent execution of five senior officials under former president Saddam Hussain, Amnesty International said today. The five were transferred from US to Iraqi custody last week.All five men, who have been convicted of crimes against humanity by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT), could be executed within a month, if the Iraqi Presidency approves their sentences. A Ministry of Justice official told Iraqi media that he expected the ratification of the death sentences within days.”While the Iraqi authorities have a responsibility to bring to justice those responsible for the gross human rights crimes committed under Saddam Hussain, they must not use the death penalty under any circumstances. It is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.”These men must not be executed. The Iraqi authorities should commute these and all other death sentences and declare an immediate moratorium on executions.”Amnesty International has questioned the fairness of trials before the SICT, which was established to try Saddam Hussain and others accused of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his rule. The court has been subject to repeated political interference undermining its independence.Watban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, former Iraqi Minister of Interior, and Sab’awi Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, former Head of Intelligence – both half brothers of ex-President Saddam Husssin – were sentenced to death in 2009 after being convicted of crimes against humanity.Senior army and security officials Sultan Hashem Ahmad and Hussain Rashid al-Tikriti were sentenced to death in 2007 after being convicted of participation in the so-called Anfal campaign against Iraq’s Kurdish minority in 1988 in which some 180,000 Iraqi Kurds died.The fifth man,‘Aziz Saleh Nu’man, a senior Ba’ath party official, was sentenced to death in June 2011 for his role in the brutal suppression of the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussain by the Shi’a community in southern Iraq.The five were among a group of 206 “high value” detainees and prisoners handed over to the Iraqi authorities by the US military on 14 July.In a letter to the Iraqi Minister for Justice last month, Amnesty International raised concern at Iraqi news reports that the Iraqi Presidency had approved 81 out of a total of 516 death sentences submitted for ratification since 2009.According to other news reports, a further 20 sentences were referred for ratification on 14 June alone.The death penalty was suspended for a time after the US-led invasion of Iraq but restored in August 2004.Since then, hundreds of people have been sentenced to death and many have been executed.