6th November 2006
Iraq: Amnesty International deplores death sentences in Saddam Hussein trial
Amnesty International deplores the decision of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) to impose the death sentence
on Saddam Hussein and two of his seven co-accused after a trial which was deeply flawed and unfair. The former Iraqi
dictator was sentenced today in connection with the killing of 148 people from al-Dujail village after an attempt to
assassinate him there in 1982. The trial, which began in October 2005 almost two years after Saddam Hussein was captured
by US forces, ended last July. The verdict was originally due to be announced on 16 October but was delayed because the
court said it needed more time to review testimony.
The case is now expected to go for appeal before the SICT's Cassation Panel following which, if the verdict were to be
upheld, those sentenced to death are to be executed within 30 days.
"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 Programme. "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."
In particular, political interference undermined the independence and impartiality of the court, causing the first
presiding judge to resign and blocking the appointment of another, and the court failed to take adequate measures to
ensure the protection of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial.
Saddam Hussein was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his
lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal.
"Every accused has a right to a fair trial, whatever the magnitude of the charge against them. This plain fact was
routinely ignored through the decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. His overthrow opened the opportunity to restore this
basic right and, at the same time, to ensure, fairly, accountability for the crimes of the past. It is an opportunity
missed," said Malcolm Smart, "and made worse by the imposition of the death penalty."
Amnesty International will now follow closely the appeal stage, where the evidence as well as the application of the law
can be reviewed, and the SICT has therefore an opportunity to redress the flaws of the previous proceedings. However,
given the grave nature of these flaws, and the fact that many of them continue to afflict the current trial before the
SICT, Amnesty International urges the Iraqi government to seriously consider other options. These could include adding
international judges to the tribunal, or referring the case to an international tribunal -- an option indicated by the
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last September.
Saddam Hussein is currently being tried by the SICT, together with six others, on separate charges arising from the
so-called Anfal campaign, when thousands of people belonging to Iraq's Kurdish minority were subject to mass killings,
torture and other gross abuses in 1988.