Pending Saddam execution raises Iraqi constitutional question News
Pending Saddam execution raises Iraqi constitutional question

[JURIST] Iraqi judges and lawyers Wednesday mulled over a potential constitutional complication in the wake of Tuesday's Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] appeals chamber affirmation of a death sentence [JURIST report] against ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] for crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982. Under the Iraqi constitution, such a death sentence requires the authorization of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive] and Iraq’s two vice presidents, but Talabani is personally opposed to the death penalty [JURIST report]. While Talabani has given his signing authority to the Shiite vice-president, who would join with his Kurdish counterpart to make the warrant legally binding for all three, there is some question as to whether this is necessary or even sufficient in light of a provision of the IHT's governing statute [text] mandating the imposition of a death penalty order within 30 days of an appeal ruling. AP has more.

Meanwhile human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], have spoken out once more against the death sentence, calling Hussein's trial deeply flawed [JURIST report]. In a statement [text] Tuesday, HRW repeated earlier claims that the Iraqi government interfered with judiciary independence [JURIST report] during the trial, and claimed that executing Hussein for Dujail while trials of him on other charges are ongoing or pending would deprive thousands of victims their day in court.

While Hussein's defense lawyers have called on the UN and other Arab governments to do anything in their power to halt the execution [AP report], Hussein himself has been defiant in the face of his latest legal setback, saying in a letter [excerpts] that he doesn't fear death, that it would be a sacrifice for Iraq, and would lead him down the road to martyrdom. Reuters has more.