Iraq hangs 11 convicted of terrorism

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq hanged 11 people convicted of terrorist offences on Thursday, the justice ministry said, pursuing what a U.N. official has criticized as a "conveyor-belt of executions". All those executed were Iraqi nationals, justice ministry spokesman Haider al-Saadi said in a text message to Reuters, bringing the total number of people executed in less than one week to 37. Violence in Iraq has surged in the past year to its highest levels since the Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian bloodshed that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when tens of thousands of people were killed. Police on Thursday said they had thwarted an attack against a meeting of the provincial council in Diyala province, killing seven suicide bombers and dismantling five car bombs that were apparently to be used during the foiled assault. Gunmen also attacked an Iraqi army base in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib neighbourhood killing 2 soldiers, and a roadside bomb exploded when a minibus was passing near Tarmiya, north of the capital, killing another person, police said. Iraq hanged at least 151 people in 2013, up from 129 in 2012 and 68 in 2011, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its annual world report published on Tuesday. The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has frequently condemned Iraq's mass executions. "This continued conveyor-belt of executions by the government of Iraq is simply deplorable," her spokesman, Rupert Colville, said on Sunday, after 26 people were hanged. "Iraq's justice system still has huge deficiencies which mean that resorting to even a small number of executions is risking a grave and irredeemable miscarriage of justice," he said. "When people are executed by the dozen, it means that such miscarriages of justice are virtually certain to be occurring." (Reporting By Raheem Salman; Editing by Isabel Coles and Robin Pomeroy)