Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guilty Verdict and Death Sentence for Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein is guilty of crimes against humanity and will be executed by hanging, the Iraqi court established to try him for brutalities committed under his rule decreed on Sunday.

The Iraqi High Tribunal’s verdict followed the Dujail case, in which Hussein was accused of killing 148 Shiite men and boys. Hussein has been tried on separate charges for killing tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds using chemical weapons during the Anfal campaign.

In spite of numerous flaws that marred the trial, for victims who survived Hussein’s atrocities and relatives of those who died gruesome deaths at his hands, justice has at long last been served.

“I’ve waited for this day for a long time,” one man, whose brother was found in a mass grave, told the New York Times. “I feel sad for my brother. But now I feel satisfied that his blood didn’t go for nothing.”

“The verdict issued against the head of the defunct regime does not represent a verdict against an individual but against a dark era unparallel in the history of Iraq,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.

LCHR President Kathryn Cameron Porter launched a campaign for the establishment of an international criminal court to bring Hussein to justice prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has worked to raise awareness of human rights abuses by his regime. A staunch defender of ethnic minorities, particularly the Kurds, Porter said, “The Kurds have suffered unspeakable torture under Saddam Hussein. Now the world knows about their ordeal, and the Iraqi people have chosen to hold the man behind their suffering accountable for his crimes against humanity. While every widow whose husband was murdered by the regime, every Halabja survivor whose lungs were permanently scarred by chemical gas, and every Iraqi touched in some way by the violence of this brutal dictator will continue to grieve for what they have lost, I hope that each one can also find closure at the conclusion of the trial.”

The director of London-based organization the Iraqi Association, Jabbar Hasan, added in a press release, “It’s the first time ever in the history of the Middle East to see a dictator to be judged directly by his own people…. Questioning the fairness underestimates the weight of the rule of law that Iraqis desperately need.”

More news and views about the Hussein verdict appear below.

Christian Science Monitor calls Hussein death sentence “positive step for Iraqi justice”
Iraqi reactions to the verdict reflect persistent sectarian divisions cultivated by Hussein’s regime. Hearing the Iraqi High Tribunal’s decision, Shiites and Kurds, who were targeted for persecution by the former dictator, flocked to the streets in jubilant celebration. Sunnis, meanwhile, reacted angrily at what many saw as a political trial controlled by Americans. According to the piece, “The result…is a positive step for Iraqi justice, but one that reveals a deep and continuing weakness in the rule of law.”

Despite popular approval for the verdict, the tribunal has not been without deficiencies, including the inexperience of lawyers and judges involved in the case, and little reference to lessons learned from other international tribunals, or to non-U.S. experts.

Regardless of its imperfections, the verdict is likely to be deemed by the Iraqi people as justice served. State officials, including Prime Minister al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, consider the verdict a clear springboard for building a stable and prosperous Iraq.

For the full article, click here.

President Bush declares verdict “milestone”
President Bush called the trial “a milestone in the Iraqi people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law” and “a major achievement for Iraq’s young democracy and its constitutional government” according to a White House press release. Hussein’s trial by due process, the President said, is a legal right that had been denied to the Iraqi people by the former regime and represents a clear marker on the path to building a society “that delivers equal justice and protects all its citizens.”

For the President’s full statement, click here.

New York Times editorial – serious doubts about fairness of trial
The future of Iraq’s fragile democracy and peace initiatives is not bolstered by outcome of the trial, according to a New York Times editorial. The country remains further divided due to Shiite and Kurdish appropriation of the trial for their own political gain. Political maneuvering by those seeking to influence the outcome and procedural mishandlings cast serious doubt over the fairness of the trial. The editorial does not deny that “Saddam Hussein’s horrendous crimes deserve exemplary punishment,” however, it puts forth an urgent plea to the appeals court charged with reviewing the verdict to take the necessary steps to compensate for procedural deficiencies, especially, by ruling to defer the death sentence to allow for the completion of Hussein’s second trial.

For the full editorial, click here.

Detroit Free Press: Verdict won’t stop violence
An analysis piece published by the Detroit Free Press reports that Iraq’s sectarian violence is not likely to be mitigated by Hussein’s death sentence. According to the article, “the verdict is just a symbol of the deeper, underlying problems” and Hussein’s fate is not linked to the growing violence in Iraq. At most, the death of Saddam Hussein by hanging could turn him into a martyr for Sunnis who are “alarmed at the prospect of Shiite domination.” In the absence of an effective system of law and government, the violence is likely to go on based on sectarian hatred and the struggle for power in Iraq.

For the full article, click here.

BBC News discusses trial’s legal ramifications
Sunday’s verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein will have important legal ramifications in the realm of international law, according to a BBC News analysis. The fact that the trial was carried out by Iraqis is key, as international parties led the way in many of the previous tribunals in cases against tyrannical leaders. Additionally, in establishing the consequence of the chain of command, the trial set a precedent for future cases where rulers attempt to wash their hands of the actions of their underlings.

For the full article, click here

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights seeks suspension of executions in Iraq
United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has urged the Iraqi government to issue a moratorium on executions, the UN’s website reported. Arbour also called on Iraqi officials to respect the defendants’ right to appeal, stressing that ensuring the right to a fair trial for human rights offenders would be an important step in the country’s efforts to shore up its justice system.

For the full article, click here

Amnesty International “deplores” Hussein death sentence
Amnesty International (AI) condemned the decision to execute Saddam Hussein. In addition to criticizing the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) for issuing the death penalty in the case, the organization called the trial “deeply flawed and unfair” and cited problems ranging from insufficient protection of defense attorneys and witnesses to the denial of counsel to Hussein until a year after his capture.

Malcolm Smart, director of the organization’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said the case was “an opportunity missed” for Iraq to re-establish the right to a fair trial, and AI called on SICT to seek international judicial intervention for the appeals phase of the trial in an effort to rectify past errors.

For the full article, click here

Trial results well-founded, says Washington Post editorial
Hussein’s trial, despite its tumultuous proceedings, culminated in a just delivery of a death sentence against “a tyrant who never hesitated when ordering the summary murder of tens of thousands of Iraqis.” Iraq’s process of recovery from years of state-sponsored brutalities is nevertheless hampered by the rising insurgency movement and the collapse of lawful order. Shiite militias, some embedded in government security forces, are responsible for the abduction, torture and murder of members of the Sunni population, even as Shiites celebrate the end of such practices under the former regime. The Sunni insurgency continues, and Arab countries are likely to view the verdict as an act of vengeance carried out by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government rather than an execution of justice. The Washington Post concludes that despite flaws in the judicial process against Saddam, “the result was imperfect, to be sure, but also well-founded.”

For the full editorial, click here.


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