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UN rights chief files legal challenge to stop possible execution of Iraqi ex-VP

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] filed an amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief [PDF text; press release] with the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] Thursday arguing that imposing the death penalty on former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] would be a violation of Iraq's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. According to the brief:

The High Commissioner submits that in the circumstances the Court's imposition of the death sentence on the current defendant would violate Iraq's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, specifically article 6 (which protects against arbitrary deprivation of life and details the limitations on permissible imposition of capital punishment); article 7 (which protects against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or exposure to a real risk thereof) and article 14 (which guarantees the right to a fair trial and appeal). As a consequence the High Commissioner submits that Court should refrain from imposing the sentence of death. ...

At the present phase of proceedings, the High Commissioner is concerned as to four discrete aspects of due process that are of particular relevance. These relate to a fair trial before a competent court and the presumption of innocence, the opportunity to contest evidence in a position of equality, the capacity of defence counsel to exercise an appropriate defence and the adequacy of appeal.
The brief also argues that the requirement that the death sentence must be carried out within 30 days after a defendant's failed appeal breaches the rights of third parties under Articles 2, 6, and 7 to seek an "effective remedy for other grave human rights violations incurring the current defendant's criminal responsibility."

The Iraqi High Tribunal postponed the sentencing proceedings [JURIST report] in Ramadan's case against until February 12 after lawyers for the survivors of Ramadan's crimes failed to appear in court. 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 ruled December 26 in its decision upholding Saddam Hussein's death sentence [JURIST report; JURIST news archive] that a life sentence for Ramadan was too lenient and ordered the trial court to re-sentence him. AP has more.

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