Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 November 2006
Issue No. 819
Region
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Tyrannical justice?


Trembling but defiant, Saddam Hussein accepted his death sentence with composure and shouted "God is great!"

Saddam Hussein was born in 1937 in the impoverished village of Ouja near Tikrit. His father, a landless shepherd, died or disappeared before he was born. The harsh treatment of his stepfather forced him to run away and live with his maternal uncle, a staunch anti-British and anti-Semitic figure. Under his uncle's influence, he joined the Baath Party at the age of 20.

In July 1968, the party came to power under the leadership of Saddam's cousin. As his deputy, he purged key party figures, deported thousands of Shias of Iranian origin and supervised the state takeover of Iraq oil industry.

He forced his cousin out in 1979. A few days after he grabbed power, he summoned Iraq's top officials, accused them of plotting against the ruling party and ordered their execution. Hundreds more were killed in the following months.

One year later he launched a war against neighbouring Iran that lasted for eight years, cost hundreds of thousands of lives and severely affected the Iraqi economy. The United States, Britain and France supported him with weapons to prevent an Iranian victory. During the war the three states turned a blind eye when Saddam ruthlessly struck against the Kurds for allegedly helping Iran.

Two year after the end of his war with Iran, he invaded Kuwait, because their rulers refused to forgive Iraq's war debts. The coalition forces led by the US forced Iraq out of Kuwait, but his regime survived for more than a decade after that.

The 11 September attack on the US focussed attention on Saddam as an accused sponsor of terrorism. But it was his refusal to meet UN demands for disclosure of his illegal weapons programme that provided the US-led coalition with a justification for war.

The US-led forces struck in March 2003. Saddam managed to hide but his sons were killed in a gun battle with the American forces in Mosul. Saddam was captured in December the same year.

His trial for the illegal killing of 148 Shias in Dujail started last October. During the trial, he insisted that doing so was legal because they were suspected in the assassination attempt against him. "Where is the crime?" he asked, standing before the panel of five judges during one of the sessions in March.

His trial on charges of war crimes in the Anfal campaign began in August before the conclusion of the first trial. If convicted, he will face another death sentence.

Saddam regarded both trials as a pulpit to rail against the American presence in his country. The judges found difficulty in controlling his outbursts in court and sometimes resorted to removing him from courtroom. But as the trial dragged on, his manner seemed to calm as he probably realised the inevitability of the conviction and a sentence.

He showed defiance to the new regime and to the court till the last moment before the verdict. During Sunday's hearing, Saddam initially refused the chief judge's order to rise. Two bailiffs pulled the deposed ruler to his feet and he remained standing throughout the sentencing, sometimes wagging his finger at the judge.

Saddam verdict

Details of the convictions and sentences for Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants in trial for 1982 war crimes in the town of Dujail

Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi president:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to death.

Guilty of forced deportation, sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Guilty of torture, sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Barzan Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to death.

Guilty of forced deportation, sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Guilty of torture, sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Awad Hamed Al-Bandar, former head of the Revolutionary Court:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to death.

Taha Yassin Ramadan, former Iraqi vice-president:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to life in prison.

Guilty of forced deportation, sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Guilty of torture, sentenced to seven years in prison.

Guilty of inhumane acts, sentenced to seven years in prison.

Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid, former Baath Party official:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Guilty of torture, sentenced to seven years in prison.

(Sentences run concurrently so he will serve 15 years).

Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid, former Baath official:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Guilty of torture, sentenced to seven years in prison.

(Sentences run concurrently so he will serve 15 years).

Ali Dayih Ali, former Baath official:

Guilty of murder, sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Guilty of torture, sentenced to seven years in prison.

(Sentences run concurrently so he will serve 15 years).

Mohamed Azawi Ali, former Baath official:

Acquitted of all charges for lack of evidence.

Ordered to be released from custody immediately.

He faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians.

The death sentences automatically go to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdicts and sentences are upheld, the executions must be carried out within 30 days. The appeals process was likely to take three to four weeks once the formal paperwork was submitted.

Chronology of the Dujail trial

5 November, 2006

Saddam is found guilty of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shias in Dujail in 1982. He is sentenced to death by hanging.

29 October

The court's chief prosecutor, Jaafar Al-Moussawi, says that the verdict, expected on 5 November, could be delayed by up to two weeks to allow for judicial "checks". The US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, denies that the Bush administration is pressing for a verdict before America's mid-term elections on 7 November.

26 July

Saddam says that if he is found guilty and sentenced to death, he wants to be shot, not hanged, befitting his status as a world leader.

24 July

The trial resumes but without Saddam Hussein, who is ill in hospital as a result of a hunger strike. The entire defence team also boycott the session, claiming their demands for a fair trial have not been met.

21 June

Gunmen kidnap and kill Khamis Al-Obaidi, the number two lawyer on Saddam's defence team.

19 June

In closing statements, Dujail prosecutors ask the judge to sentence Saddam to death and request the death penalty for Saddam's half brother Barzan Al-Tikriti, former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan and former judge Awad El-Bandar.

15 May

Saddam refuses to enter a plea after he is formally charged. He says he is still president.

1 March

Saddam acknowledges he ordered trials that led to execution of dozens of Shias in the 1980 and says he acted within the law.

23 January

Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman was newly appointed replacing Judge Rizgar Amin who resigned amid accusations from government officials that he was too lenient towards the defendants.

28 November, 2005

At least four defence lawyers failed to turn up and the trial was adjourned until 5 December so the defence team could replace two murdered lawyers.

19 October

The Dujail trial begins in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Saddam pleaded not guilty to charges.

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