Saddam Hussein sentenced to death for Dujail killings

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Iraq Special Tribunal has finally sentenced the deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to death by hanging over the killings of 148 villagers in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Hussein was charged with crimes against humanity for ordering the killings after a failed assassination attempt was made on him in the mostly Shiite town.

Of his seven co-defendants in the trial, the former head of the Iraqi secret police, Hussein's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and the former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar were also sentenced to death. Former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan was sentenced to life in prison, three other officials received 15 years in prison and one was acquitted.

File photo of Saddam Hussein appearing before the Tribunal on July 1, 2004
(Image missing from commons: image; log)


Proceedings

The five-member Special Tribunal was authorised by the Iraqi Interim Government to try Iraqi nationals or residents accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious crimes committed during the Ba'ath party rule between 1968 and 2003.

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During today's hearing, Judge Rauf Rasheed Abdel Rahman ordered bailiffs to force Saddam, who was shouting out protests, to stand as the verdict was read out.

Hussein was reported as appearing shaken as the verdict was pronounced, and later shouted "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest) and "Long live the nation!".

The sentences of death and life in prison carry an automatic appeal, and no time-limit is set for the appeals court review of the case. The law mandates the death sentence to be carried out within 30 days, after all appeals are exhausted.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is a defence attorney in the case, was ordered out of the court by the judges, who said that he had come to mock the Iraqi people and the court. Clarke had described the court yesterday as prejudiced and lacking impartiality, and called attention to the killings of Hussein's defence lawyers and the removal of judges from the tribunal.

Reactions

In Iraq

Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi coalition government said the verdict was as expected, adding "This is the least that Saddam deserved because his crimes were great. No further punishment was possible."

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih called the court "just and professional" and said that Saddam was "given the justice he denied to the people of Iraq over 35 years".

A Sunni member of parliament, speaking under anonymity to Reuters, however called the judgement "a political verdict from a political court."

Popular reaction

The verdict was announced amidst increased security measures in Iraq, including curfews in Baghdad and other cities. Despite the curfew, around a thousand people were reported as coming out into the streets of the Shiite-dominated Sadr City in celebration and gunfire was heard in Baghdad.

Celebrations were also reported in Dujail, where the killings took place.

Despite the curfew, about a thousand people demonstrated in Tikrit carrying pictures of Saddam Hussein. Some Sunnis were reported as denouncing the verdict as a "product of the US occupation forces".

Fighting is reported to have broken out in Adhimiyah, a Sunni district of Baghdad, within half an hour of the verdict. There was heavy firing and mortar shells landed near the Abu Hanifa mosque.

International reactions

The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad said the verdict was "an important milestone for Iraq".

The U.K. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed the trial's conclusion, saying it was "right" that Saddam and the other accused have to face Iraqi justice, and that they have been "held to account for their crimes".

Malcolm Smart, the Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International said that the tribunal's proceedings failed to meet necessary standards for a fair trial.

Hussein's verdict was delivered during highly contested midterm elections in United States; where the party most insistent upon an American occupation of Iraq (Republican - GOP) lagged in polls due to domestic controversies.

Sources

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