Saddam Hussein's Execution Is a War Crime
A video grab taken from Al Iraqiya television shows ousted Iraq president Saddam Hussein moments before being hanged in Baghdad. (Photo: - / AFP-Getty Images)
Saddam Hussein was killed before dawn, under cover of darkness, on Dec. 30.
Before his execution, Saddam Hussein was a prisoner of war. As a prisoner of war, he was entitled to fair and humane treatment as well as protection from summary execution.
None of these things happened.
Saddam was captured by United States soldiers on Dec. 13, 2003. In itself, this act alone made him a prisoner of war because he was part of the Iraqi army's chain of command, and before his capture, he wore a military uniform and bore arms openly.
But instead of treating him with the dignity and respect that should be accorded to prisoners of war, the United States handed him over to an Iraqi government whose legitimacy is questionable knowing that there was a strong possibility that the government would execute him.
The Third Geneva Convention is supposed to protect captured military personnel. It is supposed to protect prisoners of war like Saddam Hussein.
The convention makes it illegal to torture prisoners.
Article 3 of the convention prohibits, "Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture."
It also prohibits, "The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
And just like the motives of the war on Iraq, the independence and impartiality of the court that sentenced Saddam Hussein to death is questionable.
Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director of the Middle East and North Africa Program described Saddam's trial as "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."
Saddam's experience before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (S.I.C.T.) was cruel and it was torture.
In its November 2006 report, "Judging Dujail: The First Trial Before the Iraqi High Tribunal," Human Rights Watch identified serious flaws with the proceedings.
For a year after his arrest, Saddam was denied access to legal counsel. Witnesses and defense lawyers died because the tribunal would not, or could not, protect them — and, throughout the trial, the tribunal routinely ignored complaints from Saddam Hussein's lawyers about the proceedings.
Saddam's defense team was also only allowed two weeks, instead of 30 days, in which to read and respond to the trial judgment and when they did file an appeal against the sentence, it took the Iraqi Appeals Chamber less than 21 days to quash the appeal.
Richard Dicker, Director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program said, "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."
He described the appeals process as "even more flawed than the trial."
Manfred Nowak, the United Nations' Special Investigator on Torture, strongly opposed the way Saddam's trial was conducted.
"This would be a good chance for bringing Saddam Hussein to a truly independent court and we now have the International Criminal Court," he said.
Novak opposed the sentence that had been meted out at the end of the trial.
"Even a person like Saddam Hussein should not be sentenced to death," he said.
And yet for George W. Bush was okay for the Iraqi government to kill Saddam.
Article 3 of the Third Geneva Convention also prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."
And yet the world has seen an unkempt Saddam Hussein emerging from the bunker in which he had been hiding and the world has seen him in his underwear.
The way the Iraqi government orchestrated Saddam Hussein's trial as well and executed him also contravenes Articles 10, 12, 13, 20, 23 and 84 of the Third Geneva Convention and it makes a mockery of international law and of some of the most basic and fundamental human rights like the right to a fair trial and the right to life.
The Bush administration could still have stopped the Iraqi government from executing Saddam Hussein because United States troops were guarding him right up to the time of his death.
It is unclear what the Iraqi government is hoping to achieve by executing Saddam Hussein. It is also unclear what the Bush administration is hoping to achieve by allowing this to happen.
One thing that is clear is that the two parties have turned Saddam Hussein into a martyr, and doing that now, more than at any other time during the conflict in Iraq, will more actively inspire militants to fight against occupation forces as well as the present Iraqi government and any similar governments in Iraq.
Another thing that is clear is that in executing, facilitating and allowing Saddam Hussein to be executed, the Bush administration, together with the present Iraqi government have committed a war crime. They have violated the rules of war, which, among other things, prohibit the ill-treatment, execution of, or use of capital punishment on prisoners of war.
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