Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Death Sentence of Saddam Hussein

That Saddam Hussein was responsible for terrible atrocities in Iraq has never been the issue in current proceedings. Many of those who are congratulating the Iraqi justice system for the 5 November 2006 verdict seem to think there is something impressive in the fact that a group of hand-picked judges reached a foregone conclusion.~ GROTIAN MOMENT: The Saddam Hussein Trial Blog

Those who have followed my Good Blog link to the Grotian Moment blog covering the trial of Saddam Hussein are aware of what an excellent blog this is. The credentials of the legal experts are impressive, the commentary is not biased by politics or religion, and the issues raised are thought provoking.

With the sentencing of Hussein to death by hanging, the Grotian Moment raises an important issue of justice—and international law:

The real test was whether they could hold a trial worthy of the name. And on this count, even those who are most charitable to the Saddam trial find there is a bone that sticks in their throats. Taken at its best, this trial barely passed the test. While that may be good enough for a finding of guilt, international law clearly states that a trial which is flawed from the standpoint of due process can never result in a sentence of death.

No matter what you may think of Hussein, there remains these questions regarding the justice of a trial that was definitely flawed.

  • The first judge resigned, claiming that he was subject to unacceptable pressure.
  • Three of the Hussein’s defense lawyers were murdered.
  • International law clearly states that one “cannot execute a person unless he or she has received a fair trial that respects the highest international standards.”

Whether you or I believe that Saddam Hussein is guilty and should die for his crimes in not the point. What is the point is whether a human being should and can be executed when the judicial system was as defective as the one that has condemned him.

I am very interested in your opinion.


  1. Life imprisionment seems to me a much better sentence than hanging him.

  2. After the first judge resigned, he was replaced by a judge whose relatives were allegedly killed on Saddam's orders. The fix was definitely in on this one.

    What this trial proved is that Iraq is not capable of providing a fair trial.

    Saddam should be handed over to the World Court, and dealt with the same way Slobodan Milosevic was dealt with. He should be tried on all charges, including his use of poison gas- even though that one could prove embarrassing for the US.

    GWB wanted Saddam killed, and he's going to do it. The "trial" was just a bit of theater.

  3. If Alan Dershowitz thinks the trial and verdict were OK, I won't complain about it.

    I will say that why now are we interested in imposing Western values (legal, moral) on Iraq, when many thought it was wrong to try it earlier.

  4. Wow, those are things I have not thought about. So I will be back after thinking about it.

  5. I really don't have an opinion, but if I did, that would be it.

  6. Hang the SOB and then draw and quarter him. I hope they do it on TV so I can watch.

  7. The main reason I am against the death penalty is because everything about the court systems screams "not 100% sure" and there are so many ways things can go wrong. As I said in my last post, though, there are people I have a hard time agreeing should keep living. :( I am not sure how this is gonna pan out. I am not sure he deserves a quick death either.


  8. Nick, if it is believed that it is an unfair trial,will international law allow a re-trial? Who decides if international law has been violated?

  9. The guy deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life. But I just can't condone the death sentence.

  10. It appears that the majority of your commenters are against Saddam swinging. I am, too.

    It appears to me that Bush, who signed more death warrants when he was Texas governor that any modern governor of any state, did not want Saddam tried by the Word Court because they don’t impose the death penalty. As usual, at least until last Tuesday, Dubya got his way.

  11. Certainly, the trial was flawed. They really shouldn't have had one. They should have just hung him in the city square like the partisans did Mussolini in Italy. They surely didn't need a show trial for that

  12. The way I see it, this isn't really about him anymore, it's about us.

    Do we value the rule of law, or shall we rule the world the way a Mafia Don rules his turf?

  13. We should have done him when he stuck his head out of that rat hole he was in. The concept of "war criminal" and legal-based trials is a product of WWII is probably a wrong fork in the road that we took. Somehow it makes us look more civilized. There are limits to the rule of law.

  14. Interesting responses. Thanks to everyone!

    ANDI: I agree.

    THOMAS: I agree; I don’t think there has been a lot of justice in Iraq has a history of justice in a long time. Theoretically Iraq had an independent judiciary that combines French, Islamic, and revolutionary elements. However, during the 1980s the judiciary was increasingly bypassed by the Saddam’s regime, with many imprisonments, deportations, and executions taking place without trial. During period all of the judges were military officers.

    From my own biased view, I believe the Bush administration wants Hussein executed and the World Court, along with most of the civilized world, doesn’t impose the death penalty.

    MG CHARLIE: Until your comment, I wasn’t aware of the view of Alan Dershowitz; however, I have since read his view that “victor’s justice can be fair.”

    NINA: Yes, these are difficult problems. On one hand, we could simply say “it’s the Iraqis responsibility.” However, on the other we must admit that the U.S. has been running the show in Iraq and that the president, who signed more death warrants as governor of Texas than any other modern governor, wants Hussein death because “he sent assassins to kill my daddy.”

    RGF: Huh?

    ANONYMOUS: Do you know what you are saying when you write “draw and quarter?” I hope not. Check out:

    NATILIA: I, too, to oppose the death penalty—for many reasons.

    PEACH: You always ask excellent questions. These are probably more for a lawyer than a social worker/minister/historian!

    The way I understand it, unless there is some reason for International Law to gain jurisdiction over Hussein’s case, nothing will take place. I think the verdict and sentence were givens before the trial began. There are many questions about International Law. If I can remember my classes from the second half of the 1960’s I could be more specific—and sure of my answers. Soooo, if I remember correctly, International laws are those rules and agreements that apply between sovereign nations, primary based upon treaties and accords. For example, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty applies to those nations who signed it and who agreed to abide by its contents. That’s the present issue with Iran and North Korea, who both ratified the treaty but who now are (suspected of) violating it.

    Likewise, the United States ratified the Geneva Conventions (4 separate treaties) but the Bush administration has decided that the convention on the treatment of prisoners of war does not apply to those combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq because the president has decided they are not prisoners of war.

    In other words, International Law is affective only when a nation who has signed a treaty agrees to abide by that treaty. Crazy?

    SQUIRL: We are one on that one!

    AZSONOFAGUN: I agree.

    YOUR BEST MAN: Uh, as I remember it, Mussolini was captured, tried, and immediately executed by Italian partisans; Hussein was captured by U.S. soldiers. I think there is a difference in circumstances.

    THOMAS: I agree that, in a way it is about us (U.S.). That’s because we carry the big guns and have the big bomb. See what I wrote to Nina and Peach, above.

    RETIRED FBI GUY: If there are limits to the rule of law, who decides what those limits are? The King? That’s the way Dubya and his handlers have been running the U.S.: as if it is a monarchy and to hell with all laws and rights.

  15. From the beginning, I didn't think it was a fair trial because it was imposed by a country/administration who invaded Saddam's country illegally. The $hrub, et al, made a unilateral decision in favor of their wallets. Period.

    As Noam Chomsky said, the only rule Saddam broke was he didn't follow the rules. Various US administrations have been in bed with him whenever they felt like, and the first time they got a bad lay, they send in the troops.

    I think think the best sentence for Saddam would be to put his country back together and prevent civil war. THAT would be punishment.

  16. The use of a World Court in the first place leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't read the other blog, but there is no superior court system to the soveriegnty of a country. I honestly think that if a trial put up by Iraqies found him guilty and wants him hanged, then that is that. There is no superior court system that knows better. Like I said, there is nothing over the soveriegnty of the country. Is it right, or is it just? I don't see why not. International law is not something that is set in stone. It's all independent entities arguing against each other. If I missed a major point that the blog gave, then let me know. My time is kind of limited on blogging.