Human Rights Watch & International Action Committee & Ramsey Clark – 2006-12-31 21:23:51
Iraq: Saddam Hussein Put to Death
Hanging After Flawed Trial
Undermines Rule of Law
Human Rights Watch
NEW YORK (December 30, 2006) — The execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein following a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity marks a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch has for more than 15 years documented the human rights crimes committed by Hussein’s former government, and has campaigned to bring the perpetrators to justice. These crimes include the killing of more than 100,000 Iraqi Kurds in Northern Iraq as part of the 1998 Anfal campaign.
“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,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program. The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced Saddam Hussein and two others to death in November for the killing of 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982.
The tribunal’s statute prohibits, contrary to international law, the possibility of commuting a death sentence. It also requires that the execution take place within 30 days of the final appeal. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. Increasingly, governments are abolishing the death penalty in domestic law.
“The test of a government’s commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders,” said Dicker. “History will judge these actions harshly.” A report issued in November 2006 by Human Rights Watch identified numerous serious flaws in the trial of Hussein for the Dujail executions.
The 97-page report, “Judging Dujail: The First Trial Before the Iraqi High Tribunal,” was based on 10 months of observation and dozens of interviews with judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers. The report found, among other defects, that the Iraqi High Tribunal was undermined from the outset by Iraqi government actions that threatened the independence and perceived impartiality of the court.
It outlined serious flaws in the trial, including failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants’ right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge’s demonstrations of bias. Hussein’s defense lawyers had 30 days to file an appeal from the November 5 verdict. However, the trial judgment was only made available to them on November 22, leaving just two weeks to respond. The Appeals Chamber announced its confirmation of the verdict and the death sentence on December 26.
“It defies imagination that the Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defense’s written arguments in less than three weeks’ time,” said Dicker. “The appeals process appears even more flawed than the trial.”
At the time of his hanging, Saddam Hussein and others were on trial for genocide for the 1988 Anfal campaign. The victims, including women, children and the elderly, were selected because they were Kurds who remained on their traditional lands in zones outside of areas controlled by Baghdad. Hussein’s execution will therefore jeopardize the trial of these most serious crimes.
The International Action Center
Condemns the Trial and Death Sentence For
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
The International Action Center (IAC) hold the US government responsible for the decision of the “Iraqi High Tribunal” to carry out the death sentence against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and considers this execution part of the Bush administration’s plan to once again escalate the war.
The timing of the execution was clearly intended to pre-empt news that the death toll of US service people has hit 3,000 while that of Iraqis is in the hundreds of thousands. Such an execution will be another war crime against the Iraqi people.
As we have made clear in prior statements and articles, the IAC does not consider the capture, trial and judgment of the Iraqi president to be legal under international, U.S. or Iraqi law.* This punishment has nothing to do with the alleged crimes of the Iraqi leader nor is it part of an historical judgment of his role. It is the act of a conquering power against a nation that is occupied against the will not only of its 2003 legal government but also against the will of the vast majority of its people.
No authoritative human rights body, including those who were and are opponents and severely hostile to President Saddam Hussein such as the Human Rights Watch, considers his trial fair or the sentence just (see Dec. 27, 2006 statement).
Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a founder of the IAC, who was part of the defense team for Saddam Hussein, told the media after hearing of the plan to execute that “SaddamHussein and his co-defendants are in the custody of the U.S. military in Iraq. They will be turned over to Iraq only on the order of or with the approval of President Bush. His pending decision will have long term consequences for the peace and stability of Iraq, and for the rule of law as a means to peace.”
The Bush administration is preparing to announce its “new strategy” toward Iraq. This follows the November mid-term elections, which were an anti-war statement by the U.S. electorate. It follows the publication of the Iraq Study Group’s report, which was a recognition that the US occupation of Iraq had collapsed and that disaster was near.
The execution of Saddam Hussein is a clear sign that the Bush administration is looking not to negotiate a way for the U.S. to leave Iraq, but is instead sending a signal that it will continue the war and escalate it despite the impending disaster. This conclusion is all the more obvious, as it accompanies the news out of Iraq that US and puppet Iraqi troops are attacking, arresting and killing members and leaders of the Mahdi Army, led by Moqtada al-Sadr.
We in the IAC say no to the execution of Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants, no to the escalation of the Iraq war that will mean more deaths for Iraqis and for US troops and for an intensified mobilization to stop the occupation of Iraq. We applaud the decision of the MECAWI organization in Michigan to call a protest outside of the McNamara Federal Building at 4:30 PM on the day the lynching of Saddam Hussein is set to be carried out.
• Illegal and unfair trials of President Saddam Hussein and others by the Iraqi Special Tribunal… RAMSEY CLARK
October 10, 2006 Memorandum with Exhibits for Each…
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/hussein-2-102006.htm – 25KB – 14 Oct 2006
• Verdict of the US Occupation Court – International Action Center Statement – November 06-06
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/hussein_verdict-11-2006.htm – 9KB – 08 Nov 2006
• Demonize to Colonize by Ramsey Clark “In the determination of any criminal charge … everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by…
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/rc-demonize2004.htm – 19KB – 28 Nov 2005
• The Trial of Saddam Hussein / Anti-war Movement Must Reject Colonial ‘Justice’ Le procès de Saddam, justice coloniale By Sara Flounders,…
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/iraq_shtrial2005.htm – 34KB – 28 Jan 2006
Why I’m Willing to Defend Hussein
Ramsey Clark / The Los Angeles Times
(January 24, 2005) — Late last month, I traveled to Amman, Jordan, and met with the family and lawyers of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I told them that I would help in his defense in any way I could.
The news, when it found its way back to the United States, caused something of a stir. A few news reports were inquisitive — and some were skeptical — but most were simply dismissive or derogatory. “There goes Ramsey Clark again,” they seemed to say. “Isn’t it a shame? He used to be attorney general of the United States and now look at what he’s doing.”
So let me explain why defending Saddam Hussein is in line with what I’ve stood for all my life and why I think it’s the right thing to do now.
That Hussein and other former Iraqi officials must have lawyers of their choice to assist them in defending against the criminal charges brought against them ought to be self-evident among a people committed to truth, justice and the rule of law.
Both international law and the Constitution of the United States guarantee the right to effective legal representation to any person accused of a crime. This is especially important in a highly politicized situation, where truth and justice can become even harder to achieve. That’s certainly the situation today in Iraq.
The war has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the widespread destruction of civilian properties essential to life. President Bush, who initiated and oversees the war, has manifested his hatred for Hussein, publicly proclaiming that the death penalty would be appropriate.
The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction. Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq. This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.
Hussein has been held illegally for more than a year without once meeting a family member, friend or lawyer of his choice. Though the world has seen him time and again on television — disheveled, apparently disoriented with someone prying deep into his mouth and later alone before some unseen judge — he has been cut off from all communications with the outside world and surrounded by the same U.S. military that mistreated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Preparation of Hussein’s defense cannot begin until lawyers chosen by him obtain immediate, full and confidential access to him so they can review with him events of the last year, the circumstances of his seizure and the details of his treatment.
They must then have time to thoroughly discuss the nature and composition of the prosecution and the court, the charges that may be brought against him, and his knowledge, thoughts and instructions concerning the facts of the case. And finally, they must have the time for the enormous task of preparing his defense.
The legal team, its assistants and investigators must be able to perform their work safely, without interference, and be assured that their client’s condition and the conditions of his confinement enable him to fully participate in every aspect of his defense.
International law requires that every criminal court be competent, independent and impartial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal lacks all of these essential qualities. It was illegitimate in its conception — the creation of an illegal occupying power that demonized Saddam Hussein and destroyed the government it now intends to condemn by law.
The United States has already destroyed any hope of legitimacy, fairness or even decency by its treatment and isolation of the former president and its creation of the Iraqi Special Tribunal to try him.
Among the earliest photographs it released is one showing Hussein sitting submissively on the floor of an empty room with Ahmad Chalabi, the principal U.S. surrogate at that moment, looming over him and a picture of Bush looking down from an otherwise bare wall.
The intention of the United States to convict the former leader in an unfair trial was made starkly clear by the appointment of Chalabi’s nephew to organize and lead the court. He had just returned to Iraq to open a law office with a former law partner of Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, who had urged the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi government and was a principal architect of U.S. postwar planning.
The concept, personnel, funding and functions of the court were chosen and are still controlled by the United States, dependent on its will and partial to its wishes. Reform is impossible. Proceedings before the Iraqi Special Tribunal would corrupt justice both in fact and in appearance and create more hatred and rage in Iraq against the American occupation. Only another court — one that is actually competent, independent and impartial — can lawfully sit in judgment.
In a trial of Hussein and other former Iraqi officials, affirmative measures must be taken to prevent prejudice from affecting the conduct of the case and the final judgment of the court. This will be a major challenge. But nothing less is acceptable.
Finally, any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power and the mandate to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq, if equal justice under law is to have meaning.
No power, or person, can be above the law. For there to be peace, the days of victor’s justice must end.
The defense of such a case is a challenge of great importance to truth, the rule of law and peace. A lawyer qualified for the task and able to undertake it, if chosen, should accept such service as his highest duty.
Ramsey Clark was attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
© 2005 Los Angeles Times
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