Bush admits Saddam hanging could have been 'more dignified' as outcry continues

[JURIST] President Bush told reporters at the White House Thursday that last weekend's videoed hanging of Saddam Hussein amidst taunts from guards and witnesses fell short of what he would have liked, but nonetheless insisted on the legitimacy of the proceeding. Speaking at a news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bush said [transcript]:

Saddam Hussein was given a trial that he was unwilling to give the thousands of people he killed. He was given a fair trial -- something he was unwilling to give thousands of Iraqi citizens, who he brutalized. I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had been done in a more dignified way. But, nevertheless, he was given justice; the thousands of people he killed were not.
Harsh international criticism of the hanging and the way it was carried out has nonetheless continued. On Friday Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denounced the entire Hussein process in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot [media website]: "...the pictures of the execution were revolting and barbaric, and I am not discussing here whether he deserved it or not. As for the trial, all experts in international law said it was an illegal trial because it was under occupation." [Reuters translation]. Mubarak added that he wrote to Bush beforehand in an effort to stop the execution, which he additionally criticized as having taken place during the Muslim Eid holiday. Reuters has more.

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said in a statement issued Wednesday that Hussein's case was burdened by three fundamental flaws:
The first was that his trial was marred by serious irregularities denying him a fair hearing and these have been documented very clearly. Second, the Iraqi Government engaged in an unseemly and evidently politically motivated effort to expedite the execution by denying time for a meaningful appeal and by closing off every avenue to review the punishment. Finally, the humiliating manner in which the execution was carried out clearly violated human rights law...
Alston recommended a series of what he called "far reaching reforms" to address the failings:
(1) The provisions of the IHT [Iraqi High Tribunal] Statute must be immediately amended to ensure their consistency with international law. Especially:

(a) Insofar as it is interpreted to require execution within thirty days of a final judgement, Article 27(2) of the IHT Statute must be amended to ensure that rights to appeal and to seek pardon or commutation are fully respected.

(b) Article 27(2) of the IHT Statute must be amended to permit anyone sentenced to death to petition for pardon or the commutation of sentence, as required by Article 6(4) of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].

(c) To ensure the independence of the IHT required by Article 14(1) of the ICCPR, Articles 4 and 33 of the IHT Statute must be amended to eliminate the Government's powers to remove a judge "for any reason" and to selectively remove members of the Ba'ath Party from serving on the IHT or its staff.

(2) The Government must provide effective protection for all participants in criminal proceedings before the IHT — including defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors, and witnesses — in order to ensure the right to life of the participants and the fairness of the trial pursuant to Articles 6 and 14 of the ICCPR.

(3) The other death sentences inflicted in the Dujail case should be commuted to life imprisonment or other substantial terms of imprisonment. This would prevent more executions on the basis of sentences imposed after a flawed trial, provide time for appeals to be given due consideration and make it possible that these senior members of Saddam's regime be tried for other atrocities as well.




 

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