|Saddam: To hang or not to
By Valentinas Mite
PRAGUE - The largest political bloc in the
new Iraqi parliament is demanding the execution of
former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Most Iraqis
seem to support this demand.
President Jalal Talabani's statements that he is
opposed to the death sentence attracted much
criticism. The Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA)
has insisted Talabani should resign if he is not
prepared to sign the death warrant for the former
The new Iraqi administration is
divided about the future of Saddam.
Talabani told the BBC on April 18 that
signing a death warrant for Saddam would be
contrary to the new president's personal beliefs
as a human-rights advocate and opponent of capital
punishment. Talabani told the BBC: "I personally
signed a call for ending execution throughout the
world, and I'm respecting my signature." He
conceded that he might be the only one in
government holding this view.
al-Dabagh, a spokesman for the UIA, immediately
reacted to Talabani's statement. The alliance
holds 140 seats in Iraq's 275-member National
Assembly. Dabagh said that if "the court says he's
[Saddam] a criminal, we will follow it". He said
the president would have to follow the law or
Kamran al-Karadaghi, an Iraq
expert at the Institute for War and Peace
Reporting in London, said the United Iraqi
Alliance reacted angrily to Talabani's statement
because this group represents the Shi'ite
majority, which was ruthlessly persecuted by
"I think the alliance has to make
such a strong statement because of their voters,"
al-Karadaghi said. "You know they represent the
Shi'ites, they know the sentiments among their
public, their constituency regarding this
He added that Talabani is in a
difficult situation, as the majority of Iraqis
want Saddam to be sentenced to death.
to deal with Saddam is also a complex legal issue.
Muhammad al-Rashdan, a Jordanian lawyer
who many people once thought would defend Saddam,
told RFE/RL that from a legal point of view the
whole discussion is a violation of judicial
principles as people are speaking of the death
penalty before Saddam has even gone on trial.
"You speak about the punishment before the
trial," Rashdan said. "It means you are expressing
your opinion before the trial. It is forbidden for
those people who announce their opinion about
Saddam before the trial to do anything in this
trial or to look after this case."
Talabani's opposition to executing Saddam is very
shaky because the president himself admitted in
the BBC interview that one of his deputies might
sign the verdict.
It is unclear whether
Talabani's opposition to the execution could cause
a political rift.
Karadaghi said it is
premature to speak about a split in the ruling
coalition. "It's too early really to say that this
will create a kind of split or a problem. Talabani
himself said that he knows that everybody is in
favor of the death sentence for Saddam Hussein,"
Karadaghi said. "And he himself, I am sure, knows
that Saddam deserves a death sentence, but the
question remains, as I said a moral question."
The death penalty was reintroduced in Iraq
in August 2004 for crimes including murder,
endangering national security, and drug
trafficking. But it is only meant to be a
temporary measure in the effort to stamp out the
Karadaghi said the
majority of politicians are inclined to discuss
lifting the death penalty only after Saddam's
trial. "I sometimes see in the Iraqi press some
debate about this, but even those people who are
against that sentence in their writings, in their
papers say that, 'well yes, it is uncivilized and
maybe we should abandon the death sentence but
only after we sentence Saddam Hussein to death',"
Saddam and senior regime
figures will be tried before a special Iraqi
tribunal, which was established in late 2003. The
tribunal has given no official date for the start
of the trials. Some Iraqi officials, however, have
speculated that it could be before the end of the
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