A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

US, Iraqis at legal loggerheads before Saddam execution: NYT

[JURIST] US and Iraqi officials disagreed strongly over legal procedures and interpretations in the run-up to the December 30 hanging of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], the New York Times reported Sunday. Disagreements [JURIST report] were reported very soon after the hanging, but the latest revelations provide new insight into their extent and severity. In the face of Iraqi insistence on their right to execute the former Iraqi president in the wake of the rejection of his final appeal [JURIST report] several days previous, American officials repeatedly counseled caution and the importance of adhering to demonstrated process, citing a requirement under the Iraqi constitution [JURIST report] for the three-person Iraqi presidency to sign off on the execution and problems potentially associated carrying out the execution on Eid, contrary to Iraqi law. A US official told the Times that local American military and civilian leaders were also concerned about the message a rushed execution would send to the international community, essentially telling the Iraqis, "You have to do it by international law, you have to do it in accordance with international standards of decorum, you have to establish yourselves as a nation under law."

Iraqi officials responded by saying that the US-drafted governing statute [2005 revision, PDF] of the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] did not require any sign-off, and that the Iraqi law banning Eid executions had been suspended by the US under the Coalition Provisional Authority [official website] in 2003 not restored when the Iraqi parliament revived the death penalty afterwards. Discussions became heated before US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad asked Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki one last time late Friday night to stop the execution. He refused, and Midhat al-Mahmoud, the chief judge of Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, also declined to provide a written ruling authorizing the hanging as sought by the US. American suggestions that foreign journalists and UN observers witness the execution in the hopes of preventing its downward spiral into the revenge killing that was eventually captured in a grainy unofficial cell phone video [JURIST report] were similarly rejected.

The Times quoted an unnamed American official as saying "It literally came down to the Iraqis interpreting their law, and our looking at their law and interpreting it differently...Finally, it was decided we are not the court of last appeal for Iraqi law here. The president of their country says it meets their procedures. We are not going to be their legal nannies.” The New York Times has more.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.