Saddam co-defendants hanged; defense lawyer slams 'murder'

[JURIST]top story Former Saddam-era Revolutionary Court judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar [Wikipedia profile] and former Iraqi intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti [GlobalSecurity profile; BBC profile], sentenced to death [JURIST report] with Saddam Hussein in November in connection with crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982, were executed before dawn Monday at an Iraqi military facility in Baghdad. As shown by official video shown to reporters afterwards by the Iraqi government [Reuters report], Tikriti suffered decapitation in the hanging, a result generally caused by allowing too long a drop for the victim [Reuters backgrounder]. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh nonetheless said afterwards that the execution had proceeded properly, explaining [Reuters report] in reference to the prior unruly hanging of Hussein captured on a cell phone camera that "the convicts were not subjected to any mistreatment. Their rights were not violated. There was no chanting."

The executions came despite intense last-minute efforts by defense lawyers [JURIST report; additional report] and international leaders and activists opposed to the death penalty - including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [JURIST report] - to have them stopped. Defense lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, who met several times with the defendants while they were still in detention at US Camp Cropper earlier this month, told [statement] JURIST by e-mail after the hangings Monday that as late as Sunday afternoon "it was more than clear that no executions would occur until at least 25th January 2007." Before leaving Baghdad for his office in Rome and after having filed a petition of commutation [DOC] with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani he said he also "spoke with the US military and made [it] clear that if there was to be any execution I wanted to exercise my rights - as requested by my clients - to be present. It was unlikely there would be any executions until the 30 days had passed, was the information given to me" [IHT application to attend execution, DOC]. Di Stefano insisted that in the circumstances, the execution of his clients was criminal:

Since the executions were carried during a period that (a) was pending a decision from President Talabani whether to commute or not and (b) during the 30 days period in accordance with para. 266 [of the Iraqi Law on Criminal Proceedings] and (c) not in my presence the said executions are deemed an act of murder. It is for these reasons that I have requested the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into the events against Maliki personally and members of the Iraqi Government that authorised the said executions during the said period.
Di Stefano told JURIST that Bandar's son had already collected his father’s body.

International observers rapidly condemned the executions. In London, Amnesty International called the hangings "a brutal violation of the right to life and a further lost opportunity for Iraqis to properly hold to account those responsible for the crimes committed under Saddam Hussein's rule." Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said in statement:
Saddam Hussein and his aides should certainly have been held to account for the horrific human rights crimes committed by his government but this should have been through a fair trial process and without recourse to the death penalty. Reports that Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti had his head severed during the hanging only emphasis the brutality of this already cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment
Visiting Rome, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso reacted to the executions by saying "We consider that a man does not have the right to take the life of another man", and announced his support [Reuters report] for an Italian initiative [JURIST report] started after the Hussein execution to get a UN ban on the death penalty worldwide.

11:30 AM ET - Defense lawyer and former Saddam defense counsel Curtis Doebbler has also condemned the executions in a statement sent to JURIST:
The United States and Iraqi government carried out the summary, arbitrary and extra-judicial executions of Mr. Barzan al-Tikriti and Judge Awad Hamad al-Bandar. The executions were carried out in violations of international law and constitute a violation of the right to life and a war crime under international law because they were carried out after a trial that every independent expert that examined it called an unfair trial. On 1 September 2006, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, who had examined the trial for two years gave a final opinion calling the trial unfair and a violation of international law.

If the international community is to restore confidence in the rule of law in Iraq it must prosecute the individual responsible for the international crime of aggression against the Iraqi people and those who participated in providing the defendants in the Dujail trial an intentionally unfair trial. Only by calling for such prosecutions and ensuring they take place can the international community begin to restore trust in the rule of law. Failure to do so will send a clear message to vulnerable people everywhere who have been subjected to United States' aggression that they cannot depend on the rule of law to stop the United States and its collaborators from violating their most basic human rights and require these people to take the law into their own hands and take all necessary measures to end these illegal actions.
3:31 PM ET - From Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has expressed "regret" at the hangings:
I am opposed to capital punishment under all circumstances. In this particular case, not only is the penalty irremediable, it may also make it more difficult to have a complete judicial accounting of other, equally horrendous, crimes committed in Iraq.

Those responsible for serious human rights violations must be brought to justice, and this is crucial for effective national reconciliation. But, to be credible and durable, the fight against impunity must be based on respect for international human rights standards and the rule of law, and must not come at their expense.
Read Arbour's full statement.

3:42 PM ET - The bodies of both Bandar and Tikriti have been buried in a cemetary garden in Ouja, outside of Tikrit, near the grave of Saddam Hussein [JURIST report] after a ceremony conducted in front of hundreds of mourners, including Bander's son and the governor of Iraq's Salahaddin province. Reuters has more.

 

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