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Iraqi tribunal delays re-sentencing former Saddam VP

[JURIST] Sentencing proceedings in the case against Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan [Trial Watch profile] were postponed until February 12 Thursday after lawyers for the survivors of Ramadan's crimes failed to show up in court. The lawyers had not been given notice to appear. Ramadan is expected to receive a death sentence [JURIST report].

Ramadan was convicted [JURIST report; BBC verdict summary] in November in connection with crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982. The Appeals Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] ruled December 26 in its decision upholding Saddam Hussein's death sentence [JURIST report] that a life sentence for Ramadan was too lenient and ordered the trial court to re-sentence him. On Monday, a lawyer for Ramadan filed an appeal [DOC text; JURIST report] against the appeals ruling, arguing that the Tribunal's Appeals Chamber was not authorized to effectively direct its trial court to deliver a death penalty for Ramadan after that court originally accorded him a life sentence. AP has more.

11:13 AM ET - In a statement e-mailed to JURIST Thursday, Ramadan defense lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano said:

In the first proper legal ruling of the Iraqi High Tribunal the Court has decided to adjourn the case of my client Taha Ramadan not only based upon the submissions filed but because as a matter of law no defence lawyer had 'legally' been notified of the hearing. Under normal circumstances and as we have seen in the Saddam Hussein, Barzan Al Tikriti and Awwad Al Bandar cases, the IHT takes no notice whatsoever of their own Rules of Procedure. But the public outcry advanced by those such as myself at political, judicial and legal levels has created a wind of change that although comes too late for Saddam, Barzan and Awwad may just save others.

The question of notification is a fundamentally important factor in the legal process in any jurisdiction. Cases succeed based upon the failure to 'notify' judgments, decisions, sentences, defendants, lawyers. One of the submissions that I had made to the IHT in the case of Barzan Al Tikriti and Awaad Al Bandar was that they had NEVER been legally notified of the Appeal Chamber decision dated 26 December 2006 rejecting their appeal. Thus, in my submission since they had never been notified, Para. 266 of the Law on Criminal Proceedings 1971 could not 'kick in' and as such the 30 day period stipulated for any appeal only started when legal notification had occurred. The Iraqi Government hung my clients the day after I lodged the said submissions and the application to President Talabani for commutation of sentence. The deaths of Saddam Hussein, Barzan Al Tikriti, and Judge Awwad Al Bandar may thus not have been wholly in vain.

The IHT has ruled that since the defence lawyers were not 'notified' legally of any hearing then the proceedings could and should not commence. They have also received my submissions and will no doubt have to try and find a way of answering what is clear, precise and plain law. In the meantime, Taha Ramadan lives on and if there is to be any hearing on 12th February 2007 I will be present but at that time my submission will be quite simple- the time period for any further re-hearings has expired and any Court would not be properly constituted thus making any decisions ultra vires. The dilemma will then be whether Taha Ramadan should be freed or retried.

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