Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam no more...

He was hung this morning, at dawn. On one of the holiest days in the Muslim world, the Eid ul-Adha; ironically the day when the prophet Abraham proved his willingness to sacrifice his own son to God.

No doubt Saddam Hussein was a dictator, murderer and tyrant, but to some the execution stinks of hypocrisy, and is an affront to the Muslim faith. Perhaps some will even see his death as a 'sacrifice', and fuel their cause to wreak havoc and destruction in so-called democratic Iraq, and elsewhere. Nobody knows where his body is being taken to, out of fear of inciting pilgrimages to his grave.

He was convicted for the killing of 148 people in al-Dujail village, after an assination attempt some sixteen years. The original sentence was handed down back in November, and upon appeal reaffirmed on 26 December 2006. Four days later, the noose was strapped around his neck.

As much as Saddam deserved to be punished, the death penalty does not seem to serve any purpose. The charge of killing those people is trivial compared to the other crimes against humanity, political terror and perhaps even war crimes he has commited over the years. The families and relatives of those killed so many years ago may be glad, but what of the many torture and political victims, the countless Kurds, and those who died in the wars and purges under his tyranny? The trial is supposed to uncover the past and help in the reconciliation process, but instead, like many in the Arab world have suggested, it's a sham and show trial (see comments by Amnesty International).

The 'head' of the terror regime of Saddam's Iraq may have been removed, but the terror will continue. By convicting and punishing one person the causes of the current state of chaos and fighting between factions in Iraq are not removed. Instead, as the car bombs moments after Saddam's hanging spread in the news show, the bloodshed will continue. This is no way to build the democracy and promote peace and reconciliation the new Iraqi (puppet) government and US administration insist on.

-- -- --

O dear Iraqi people, you who have put up with the hardship for years and suffered from the injustice of tyrants and dictators throughout the era of the hateful dictatorship.

"Your generous and pure land has got rid - and for ever - of the filth of the dictator and a black page of Iraq's history has been turned and the tyrant has died."
Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki

-- -- --

Of course, Saddam has committed too many crimes. He deserves for those crimes capital punishment. But so quickly done, so quickly executed... and only in one case - it would leave the other cases and leave a lot of secrets without being known."
Iraqi Kurdish politician, Mahmoud Osman

-- -- --
Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. Bringing [him] to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.
US president George W Bush
-- -- --
"He has been killed, but I believe he will be more dangerous to the forces of the occupiers and their allies after his death than when he was alive.
George Galloway, British MP
-- -- --

"Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can't justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment...

"The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders...

"It defies imagination that the Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defence's written arguments in less than three weeks' time... The appeals process appears even more flawed than the trial...
Human Rights Watch

-- -- --

"His trial should have been a major contribution towards establishing justice and ensuring truth and accountability for the massive human rights violations perpetrated when he was in power, but his trial was a deeply flawed affair" said Malcolm Smart of [Amnesty International]. "It will be seen by many as nothing more than 'victor's justice' and, sadly, will do nothing to stem the unrelenting tide of political killings."

The trial before the [Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal ] failed to satisfy international fair trial standards. Political interference undermined the independence and impartiality of the court, causing the first presiding judge to resign and blocking the appointment of another, and the court failed to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial. Saddam Hussein was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal. The appeal process was obviously conducted in haste and failed to rectify any of the flaws of the first trial.
Amnesty International

-- -- --

The direct impact of these circumstances was felt inside the court, through the killing of three defence lawyers and one judge. In addition, the initial establishment of the tribunal under American occupation meant that it carried an inevitable taint of illegitimacy in the eyes of a sizeable number of Iraqis.

In retrospect it seems clear that this trial was held at the wrong time in the wrong place. Despite the genuine advantages of holding the trial in Baghdad, to bring it closer to the society from which Saddam Hussein's victims had come, it is now obvious that the pressures on the court were simply too great. But to consider the ideal forum for Saddam's trial in the abstract - to weigh impartially the pros and cons of different judicial approaches from the disembodied perspective of international justice - is to miss the actual context in which the decision was made.

The Iraqi political leaders involved in discussing the question of war-crimes trials with American and British representatives were adamant that the alleged "regime criminals" should be held to account in Iraq, with the death penalty as a possible sanction. The question then was not simply, "Would it be better for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to be tried outside Iraq?" but more importantly, "Would it be right to override the Iraqis' own strongly-expressed desire to try their own former dictator, and impose an international solution by international fiat?"
Crimes of War

1 January 2007
My point exactly, and put in better words than I could:
This does not bode well for the coming year. No one imagined the madmen would actually do it during a religious holiday. It is religiously unacceptable and before, it was constitutionally illegal. We thought we'd at least get a few days of peace and some time to enjoy the Eid holiday, which coincides with the New Year this year. We've spent the first two days of a holy holiday watching bits and pieces of a sordid lynching.

America the savior… After nearly four years and Bush's biggest achievement in Iraq has been a lynching. Bravo Americans.

One of the most advanced countries in the world did not help to reconstruct Iraq, they didn't even help produce a decent constitution. They did, however, contribute nicely to a kangaroo court and a lynching. A lynching shall go down in history as America's biggest accomplishment in Iraq. So who's next? Who hangs for the hundreds of thousands who've died as a direct result of this war and occupation? Bush? Blair? Maliki? Jaffari? Allawi? Chalabi?

Baghdad Burning

UPDATE 21 January 2007

Mr Bush’s response:

"It basically says to people, 'Look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others. But then, when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing,'" the president said.

"It makes it harder for me to make the case to the American people that this is a government that does want to unify the country and move forward," Bush said. "And it just goes to show that this is a government that has still got some maturation to do."
Bush says Iraq hangings show Baghdad government "still got some maturation to do"

Reactions from ordinary Iraqis. More reactions from fellow Bloggers:

Did our government wish a Happy Eid for Iraqis along with the New Year when the execution of Saddam took place? Or did they just take revenge and mock us by ornamenting these days with such horrific scenes?

Just like always, to make one step forward we end with three steps backward! Showing Saddam's execution as an act of Shia revenge will only deepen the gap we have now

First off, it's not only the Sunnis that were appalled by the date and the way the execution was carried out. Every Iraqi who is not a Moqtada follower or a supporter of the current government was outraged.
How do I know this you ask? Well, simple. I work with about 40 Iraqis, a mixture of Shias, Sunnis, Christians and Kurds.
Out of all those I spoke to, only two were exuberant about the whole thing.
Neurotic Iraqi wife

And that horrible decapitation incident of Saddam’s half brother just tops the gruesomeness of capital punishment:

Ibrahim [Saddam’s half brother] plunged through the trap door and was beheaded by the jerk of the thick rope at the end of his fall; the Iraqi government said the decapitation was an accident. Saddam's Dec. 30 execution drew international outrage after a clandestine video showed the former president being taunted on the gallows. A second leaked video showed Saddam's corpse with a gaping neck wound.

Hours after Ibrahim and al-Bandar were executed, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Italian Premier Romano Prodi condemned the hangings.

"Our position, born out of principle, is against the death penalty," Barroso said in Rome. "It's an issue of values. We consider that no man has the right to take the life of another man."
Botched executions in Iraq prompt renewed calls to abolish the death penalty worldwide

The Dalai Lama is against hanging too:

"Amnesty International has issued an appeal in general against death by hanging and I was a signatory to it," the 71-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader told reporters when asked to comment on the hanging on Dec. 30 of Saddam.

"I am opposed to hanging," he said. "Everybody needs peace, violence cannot achieve anything."

On a lighter note:
A village full of Saddam Husseins!

But there is one problem in having so many Saddam Husseins, says villager Mohammed Hassan Abbas.

"In the playground we have Saddam Hussein running after Saddam Hussein, behind Saddam Hussein who is ahead of Saddam Hussein but too far from Saddam Hussein... it can all get a little confusing," he said.

A cartoon which explains who was behind the hanging...

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