Iraqi appeals court: Saddam must be put to death within 30 days

Saddam Hussein was setenced on November 5th to death for his genocidal crimes, and an appeals court ruled yesterday that his sentence should be upheld and that the former Iraqi dictator must be put to death by hanging within 30 days:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 26 — An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence against Saddam Hussein and ruled that the man whose brutal reign began in 1979 and ended with the American-led invasion in 2003 must go to the gallows within 30 days.

It was the court of last resort for Mr. Hussein, who received his death sentence on Nov. 5 from the Iraqi High Tribunal, a court set up specifically to pass judgment on his years in power. No further appeals are possible, and his final legal recourse appears to be a clause in the Constitution stating that the Iraqi president must approve all death sentences.

That clause offers Mr. Hussein only the slenderest of hopes. Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, has said he is formally against the death penalty, but he has permitted the hangings of many Iraqis convicted of capital crimes. And the Constitution may be trumped by an article in the charter of the tribunal stating that its sentences may be commuted by no one, not even the president.

The appeals verdict, covering one case involving the execution of 148 men and boys in the northern town of Dujail in 1982, came even as Mr. Hussein was facing trial on charges that he ordered the killing of tens of thousands of Kurds, whose bodies have in some instances been exhumed from grisly mass graves and minutely described in the courtroom.

The decision of the nine-judge appeals court was announced on short notice by the chief judge, Aref Shahen, after another day of the numbing violence that has gradually engulfed this country after the bursts of optimism that followed Mr. Hussein’s fall from power in March 2003 and his capture by American forces in December of that year.

Judge Shahen delivered the verdict to a few reporters assembled at the Council of Ministers building within the heavily guarded Green Zone as the rest of the country settled into its nighttime curfew. There were none of the theatrical outbursts contrived by Mr. Hussein to disrupt the trial and the appeal, because he was not present to hear the verdict.

The judge said simply that the appeals court had approved the verdict against Mr. Hussein, who was formally charged with crimes against humanity, and two co-defendants, who had also received death sentences in the Dujail killings, and that they now faced “execution by hanging until death” within 30 days.

Germany’s Spiegel Online reports that “hundreds” of Iraqis are applying to be Saddam’s hangman:

Saddam’s half brother and intelligence chief, Barzan al-Tikriti, will also hang, and so will a former senior revolutionary court judge involved in the executions. There is no official job of “hangman” in Iraq, and an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says the government has not officially advertised for the job. The executioner, moreover, will remain anonymous because Saddam’s execution could inflame tensions in a country where people die every day in sectarian violence.

But hundreds of Iraqis have inquired about the hangman’s job. The adviser, Bassam al-Husseiny, told the US network ABC News that he received about eight to 10 phone calls a day — and 20 to 30 e-mails — by Iraqis who wanted to execute Saddam. The candidates came from all three of the country’s major religions and from all walks of life, he said — from high-level government officials to “the tea boy.”

Leftist groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have weighed in that they don’t want Saddam put to death. HRW opposes it on the grounds that the death penalty is always wrong especially in cases like Saddam’s where his trial allegedly wasn’t conducted “fairly” and AI opposes the DP because they believe the trial was not free of “political influence.”

Will it be televised? Should it be?

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