More Hangings Would Further Jeopardize Respect for Rule of Law
The planned executions of two senior Ba`ath Party officials convicted in the unfair Dujail trial, coming on the heels of widening international criticism of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, highlight the Iraqi government’s disturbing disregard for human rights and the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said today.
Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former head of the intelligence service, and Awad al-Bandar, former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court, were convicted and sentenced to death with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for their role in the killing of 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982. Their execution is likely to occur this week, according to media reports.
Human Rights Watch is deeply disturbed by significant flaws in the case against Awad al-Bandar, who presided over the 1984 Revolutionary Court trial that sentenced the 148 Dujail victims to death. The November 2006 Human Rights Watch report on the Dujail trial, “Judging Dujail: The First Trial Before the Iraqi High Tribunal”, documented that al-Bandar claimed in court last year that the tribunal’s full 361-page investigation file on the Revolutionary Court would help bolster his claim of innocence. Only four of these pages were provided in the Dujail trial dossier and, although the file was within the court’s control, the Dujail judges declined to order the prosecution to produce the full record.
“The tribunal repeatedly showed its disregard for the fundamental due process rights of all of the defendants,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program. “The execution of these two, however heinous the crimes involved, is cruel and inhuman punishment that will only drag a deeply flawed process into even greater disrepute.”
Hussein was put to death on December 30, 2006. Video shot on a mobile phone and posted on the internet showed guards and witnesses taunting and insulting Hussein in the final moments before his death. Human Rights Watch, which documented the crimes of the Hussein regime, opposes the death penalty as itself a human rights violation.
The verdict and death sentences against Hussein, al-Tikriti and al-Bandar were upheld by the Appeals Chamber, which reviewed the tribunal’s complex 300-page judgment in less than three weeks.
Human Rights Watch was also critical of remarks made on January 6 by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who said that Saddam Hussein did not deserve a fair trial and that his hanging was a domestic affair carried out for the purpose of Iraqi unity. Al-Maliki went on to say that criticisms of the execution were tantamount to “inciting sedition” and constituted “flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Iraq.” Human Rights Watch recalls comparable statements from Hussein’s former Ba`ath Party regime in attempting to rebuff criticisms of its horrific human rights violations.
The imminent executions of al-Tikriti and al-Bandar follow questions about whether the proper Iraqi legal procedures were adhered to for Saddam Hussein’s execution. Under the Iraqi constitution, all death sentences must be endorsed by the three-member Iraqi presidency council. According to media reports, the presidency did not ratify the order to hang Saddam Hussein and the legal basis of this decision not to ratify is unclear.
The tribunal’s statute prohibits, contrary to international law, the possibility of seeking a commutation of a death sentence. It also requires that the execution take place within 30 days of the final appeal.
“The haste and vengeance infusing Saddam Hussein’s hanging should prompt the Iraqi government to halt these executions,” said Dicker. “Saddam Hussein’s hanging, which obscured his unspeakable human rights record, shocked the world and is raising questions about this government's commitment to fundamental human rights.”
“Judging Dujail” identified numerous serious defects in the trial of all of the defendants for the Dujail executions. The 97-page report was based on 10 months of observation and dozens of interviews with judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers.
Concerns raised in the report include actions by the Iraqi government that threatened the Iraqi High Tribunal’s independence and perceived impartiality from the outset. There were also a number of serious flaws revealed during the trial, such as failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants’ right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge’s demonstrations of bias.
Human Rights Watch has spent nearly two decades documenting the widespread human rights violations committed by the former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein and campaigning for those responsible to be brought to justice. These violations include the killing of more than 100,000 Iraqi Kurds in Northern Iraq as part of the 1998 Anfal campaign. The victims, including women, children and the elderly, were selected because they were Kurds who remained on their traditional lands in zones outside of areas controlled by Baghdad.