His last 30 days:
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.
Although the title of this post might give one the impression that I think quite lightly about this, the opposite is true. I’m conflicted about it. If there is one person who deserves to die by hanging, it is Saddam. That being said, I oppose the death penalty in general. There are different reasons for this, one of them is that I find it quite troublesome when a government has the power to kill its own citizens. Another one is that it is quite… irrevocable once carried out. When a mistake has been made, a person can be released from prison… Not so with the death penalty. Lastly, I simply find it unethical and, perhaps, unnecessary. The death penalty seems to be more about revenge than about protecting society. At least – again – in general. Most societies don’t get any less safe when a person is locked up for the rest of his or her life, instead of being killed with permission from a judge (and the government).
Again, that is in general. There are exceptional cases. If Saddam wouldn’t be killed, I think that the risk would always exist that his followers will try to get him out, that he will be able to influence Iraq, even from prison, etc. However, then we still have the moral dilemma: is it ever ‘good’ or ‘right’ to kill someone, outside the battlefield c.q. self defense? Can doing so, ever, be defended when it’s not absolutely necessary?
I’m not sure.
Others on this
Generally I’m not much of a death penalty fan for the simple reason that there is always the possibility that an innocent person could be put to death mistakenly.
I don’t think my fears apply in this particular case, however…
One of the definitions of justice is “conforming to truth, fact, or reason” and, as a psychiatrist, I like to think of psychological insight as a sort of divine justice that implaccably forces an individual to become aware of even the darkest parts of his or her soul.
A very interesting post.
Sister Toldjah, who mentions that the Human Rights Watch
opposes it on the grounds that the death penalty is always wrong especially in cases like Saddamâ€™s where his trial allegedly wasnâ€™t conducted â€œfairlyâ€? and AI opposes the DP because they believe the trial was not free of â€œpolitical influence.â€?
She also wonders whether it will be – and should be – televised.
Personally, I had hoped to see Saddam dangling from a lamppost in Baghdad in April 2003. The only problem I see with a quick turnaround on stringing him up now is it cheats the Kurds of a verdict, and cheats Iraq and history of a formal airing of his crimes. Maybe they don’t need it. Iraq and history already know.
So why did we Anglo-Americans stop turning hangings into circuses? More than anything else, it was probably embarrassment. Our societies were shamed into drawing a line between executions and entertainment. But when Saddam hangs, especially if there’s a live feed, will shame be enough to prevent media from attempting to assemble what could be Oscar-sized global audiences?
Lastly – of course – also read Joe’s post from yesterday on this:
Meanwhile, there is one danger in executing Saddam. Will he become a martyr to some in Iraq? Much of the answer to that will hinge on the future effectiveness of the present government â€” on whether the Saddam regime is perceived as a bad memory or as happier, more orderly times.
Read them all.