Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam's death penalty "something heroic" says Howard, while wiser voices react with unease

As you would expect, the PM came out today as a vocal member of an international cheer squad in support of the death penalty handed Saddam Hussein.

By contrast, European governments and human rights organisations reacted to the decision with deep unease, amid doubts about the fairness of the trial and fears that the sentence could trigger further sectarian bloodshed in Iraq.

CNN reports "Terry Davis, secretary general of the Council of Europe, opposed Hussein's execution, saying it would be "futile and wrong" to execute Hussein, whom he called a "ruthless dictator" who "must pay for his crimes."

"What Iraqi people need is justice not retribution. A country ravaged by violence and death does not need more violence; and especially not a state orchestrated execution. Saddam Hussein is a criminal and should not be allowed to become a martyr," said Davis.

The council, which represents 46 European countries, was formed in 1949 and promotes unity on the continent.

Amnesty International, the humanitarian watchdog group, deplored the death sentences and criticized the proceeding.

They cited political interference, poor security for lawyers and witnesses, denial of access to legal council, and various complaints by the defense team about the proceedings.

"This trial should have been a major contribution towards establishing justice and the rule of law in Iraq, and in ensuring truth and accountability for the massive human rights violations perpetrated by Saddam Hussein's rule," said Malcolm Smart, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

"In practice, it has been a shabby affair, marred by serious flaws that call into question the capacity of the tribunal, as currently established, to administer justice fairly, in conformity with international standards."

Bush and Howard applauding legal processes that fail to meet international standards! So what else is new? If these leaders were to suddenly start defending the universal right of everyone to a fair trial I would have to check whether I was having an 'out of body' experiece. Although Blair is equally culpable in terms of applauding Saddam's trial process, at least on this issue he has finally done the right thing, declaring his opposition to the death penalty.

Robert Fisk reminds us of the changing fortunes of a dictator once allied to the US: "So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the British, of course - yet there we were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another "great day for Iraq". That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his hole in the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're going to string him up, and it's another great day.

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