An Iraqi court has handed down death sentences to two dozen men for their involvement in the killing of hundreds of Shiite soldiers last year by militants in northern Iraq.
"After deliberations, the court finds that the evidence collected is sufficient to convict 24 defendants," a Baghdad judge said today. "The court decided they will be executed by hanging."
Due to lack of evidence, four defendants were acquitted by the court in the trial, which rights groups are decrying as dubious.
As the so-called Islamic State (IS) made its advances in Iraq in June 2014, an estimated 1,700 soldiers were captured, tortured, and executed by militants outside the former US military base Camp Speicher, near the city of Tikrit. Video footage of the massacre soon circulated online, showing soldiers being led away to trenches before being summarily executed. Bodies were either dumped in mass graves or thrown into the Tigris river.
When Iraqi forces recaptured the city from IS earlier this year, forensic teams began work on investigating suspected mass graves near the site. In May, it was reported that authorities had located the remains of 470 victims. A further 604 people are wanted in connection with the massacre.
Related: Surviving an Islamic State Massacre
The defendants were ushered into the court blindfolded, handcuffed, and chained at the feet, according to AFP. It was reported that relatives of the soldiers killed in Tikrit stormed the courtroom and threw shoes and water bottles at the men.
It's believed that the two dozen convicted men are Iraqi nationals. They had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and said that their confessions were gained through torture and they did not have access to a lawyer.
Amnesty International released a statement to AFP, saying the organization is looking at the case.
"The Speicher trial bears the hallmark of unfair trials that have seen thousands of those accused of terrorism in Iraq sentenced to long prison terms or to death," the organization said. "Often confessions extracted under torture and denied by the defendants in court were used to secure convictions. Today's trial seems to continue that pattern despite statements these men will get a fair trial."