Iraq executed 17 people on Wednesday, days after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticised Baghdad for carrying out a large number of executions and questioned the fairness of its judicial proceedings.

The Justice Ministry said the accused had been convicted of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and murder. Ministry statistics indicated that Iraq executed 34 people in January.

The Ministry of Justice is moving forward in carrying out fair punishment for criminals spilling Iraqi blood, Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimari said.

Pillay last week urged Iraq to halt executions, expressing concern about the transparency of court proceedings, due process and the fairness of trials.

She called the number of executions terrifying and said the death penalty could be imposed for 48 crimes including some related to non-fatal acts such as damage to public property.

Rights group Amnesty International has expressed concern about the use of the death penalty in Iraq. Human Rights Watch said in January that Iraq risked sliding back into authoritarian rule.

Executions were suspended after Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003 but reintroduced in 2004 by Iraqi authorities who said the death penalty was needed to combat a wave of sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Janet Lawrence)