November 5, 2006
Saddam Hussein Sentenced To Death By HangingThe BBC:
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been convicted of crimes against humanity by a Baghdad court and sentenced to death by hanging.The L.A. Times reports Hussein was "visibly shaken" as he shouted "God is great!" and "Life for the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!". Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, one of Hussein's defense lawyers, handed the chief judge a memo calling the trial a travesty and was promptly thrown out of court. A video report on the hearing can be found here.
Hussein, who claimed previously that he is not afraid to die, didn't get his wish to die by firing squad instead of hanging "like a common criminal". His sentence will automatically be appealed. If that appeal fails, The Australian reports he could be hanged within 30 days. Other co-defendants received 15-year sentences to life in prison; one was acquitted.
There is little doubt that Saddam Hussein is guilty of these crimes, but rightly or wrongly, the mere fact that the country is still under an occupying force immediately calls to question the validity of the trial and the verdict.
Considering that he committed crimes not just against his people but against humanity, Hussein should have been tried at the International Court at the Hague which tried the Nazis and more recently, Yugoslavian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. This would insure impartiality and fairness in the eyes of the world and more importantly, the Iraqi people whose warring factions are already expressing opposing views of the verdict.
Hussein, a Sunni, ordered the execution of 148 men and boys from the Shiite town of Dujail after a failed assasination attempt in 1982, when shots were fired at his presidential convoy as it passed through the town. He is still on trial for genocide in the Anfal campaign of 1987-88, when he ordered the killing of as many as 100,000 Kurds by poison gas.
The Washington Post highlights how differently the Shiite and Sunni sects view this trial, which could be the source of escalating violence after the verdict:
The trial -- often punctuated by outbursts and other antics from Hussein and his seven co-defendants -- was disparaged by some as a political show and victor's vendetta and hailed by others as a historic symbol of Iraq's fledgling democracy. The first chief judge quit, complaining of political interference in the case, and gunmen killed three defense attorneys during the trial. Many legal experts questioned the trial's fairness, saying Iraq's justice system was not equipped to handle such a significant case, and that it should have been held in a third country.The Houston Chronicle is already reporting initial clashes right after the verdict, with a Sunni politician condemning the decision:
Clashes immediately broke out Sunday in north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district, and a Sunni political leader condemned the court decision.Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki (a Shiite) said he hoped Hussein gets what he deserves, as Baghdad and two other provinces are placed in lockdown in anticipation of a widely predicted outbreak in sectarian violence post-verdict:
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials canceled all military leaves, ordered the Baghdad airport closed and imposed an indefinite curfew from 6 a.m. today in the capital and the religiously mixed provinces of Diyala and Salahuddin, home to Saddam's birthplace and the Shiite town at the center of his trial.Here's hoping it doesn't happen; I don't know how much more this nation can take. Considering the bleak assessment from that CentComm chart that I wrote about here, this just might be the spark that pushes Iraq into an escalated, all-out civil war.
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