December 26, 2006

Saddam Husayn - The End is Near

Saddam Husayn has exhausted the appeals of his death sentence. An Iraqi appeals court upheld the death sentences for Saddam, former head of the dreaded Iraqi Intelligence Service (al-mukhabarat) Barzan Al-Tikriti (Saddam's half brother) and former revolutionary court judge 'Awad Ahmad Al-Bandar.

According to Iraqi law, the judicial process for this case is complete. The three, along with three other defendants, were found guilty of crimes against humanity. The specific crimes were the deaths of almost 150 Shi'a Iraqis in the village of Al-Dujayl after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam. Since crimes against humanity are international crimes, the verdict is not subject to presidential pardon.

Iraqi law is very specific on carrying out the sentence. The three must be executed by hanging within 30 days, after the sentence is ratified by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani. Talabani is personally opposed to the death penalty, so will have one of the vice-presidents ratify the sentence. The sentence is to be carried out regardless of other ongoing judicial proceedings - the current trial for crimes against the Kurds in the Anfal campaign should not interfere with the executions. Iraqi officials have stated in the past that they want to continue the series of trials against Saddam in order to make sure all of his misdeeds are made public.

Saddam has asked that he be executed by firing squad, but Iraqi law again is specific - executions are by hanging. Although there were calls for it to be done in public, security concerns will likely force it to be a private procedure on an American compound. No doubt the execution will further inflame the Sunnis and may lead to increased violence directed at American and Iraqi forces, as well as the general Shi'a population. That said, it needs to be done.

Several human rights, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have criticized the judicial process of the trial, as well as the death sentence. Where were they when Saddam was killing 400,000 Iraqis?