Iraq: UN rights expert calls for international court to re-try Saddam
Citing the “doubtful legitimacy and credibility” of the Iraqi court that sentenced Saddam Hussein and other former leaders to hang, a United Nations human rights expert has called for an international tribunal to re-try the ousted president and urged the authorities not to carry out the death sentences imposed.
“It is clear that the verdict and its possible application will contribute to deepen the armed violence and the political and religious polarization in Iraq, bringing with it the almost certain risk that the crisis will spread to the entire region,” Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Leandro Despouy said in a statement yesterday.
He hailed the Government’s determination to punish the main authors of the atrocities committed during three decades and its will to see the trial take place in Iraq, but stressed that the court was established during an occupation considered by many as illegal, is composed of judges selected during this occupation, including non Iraqi-citizens, and has been mainly financed by the United States.
He also cited the lack of observance of a legal framework conforming to international human rights standards, in particular the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal which upholds the right to a defence; the negative impact of the violence and the insecurity during the trial, including the killing of a judge, five candidate judges, three defence lawyers and an employee; and outdated legislation allowing the death penalty.
It is “essential that this will be expressed through a trial conducted by an independent tribunal, legitimately established, acting in absolute transparency and providing all guarantees for a fair trial, in accordance with international human rights standards,” he said.
“If those conditions are not fulfilled, the verdict of the Iraqi High Tribunal, far from contributing to the institutional credibility of Iraq and the rule of law, risks being seen as the expression of the verdict of the winners over the losers,” he added in the statement, which followed a call from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour for a moratorium on executions.
Since the present verdict is subject to appeal, it opens the possibility to consider setting up “an independent, impartial and international tribunal with all the necessary guarantees to enable it to receive the support of the United Nations, and which will take advantage of the rich experience acquired by other international tribunals,” Mr. Despouy said.
“This should be done with urgency, to attenuate the negative impact this verdict already started to produce in Iraq and the proliferation of violence in the region.”
Carrying out the sentences would represent a serious legal setback for the country and would be in open contradiction to the growing international tendency to abolish the death penalty, he added.
Special Rapporteurs are unpaid and serve in a personal capacity, reporting to the UN Human Rights Council. // UN News Centre