[Marxism] U.S. Strives to Delay Iraqi Hanging (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Feb 8 09:59:46 MST 2007

(Isn't it odd that Washington, after invading Iraq, overthrowing 
its government, and installing a new, supposedly "sovereign" 
Iraqi regime, is trying to restrain that "sovereign" regime from 
carrying out one of the perks of "sovereignty", the right to 
publicly kill people?)

February 8, 2007

U.S. Strives to Delay Iraqi Hanging
Officials Criticize Legal Procedure,
Fear Damage to Government Credibility
February 8, 2007; Page A4

U.S. officials are working to spare Saddam Hussein's former vice
president from a rapid trip to the Iraqi gallows, fearful that his
execution, following the flawed hangings of Mr. Hussein and a
co-defendant, could further damage the credibility of the
American-backed government.

The former vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, was among seven
officials -- including Mr. Hussein -- convicted in November by the
Iraqi High Tribunal, an Iraqi-run court established by the U.S. to
try members of the ousted regime. The trial court imposed a life
sentence, but an appeals court in December directed that Mr. Ramadan
be executed.

The appeals court offered no legal rationale for the change, and
legal experts hired by the U.S. government to advise the Iraqi High
Tribunal say the appeals ruling violated due process. Legal observers
say prosecutors failed to provide direct evidence tying Mr. Ramadan
to the specific killings for which he now faces execution, and that
was a likely reason the trial court declined to order a death

"We've had two botched executions," said a senior administration
official in Washington. "We would like to prevent additional

Today, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Louise
Arbour, plans to ask Iraqi officials to reconsider the death
sentence, because of flaws in the appellate process, according to a
person familiar with the matter. A U.N. representative in Baghdad is
scheduled to meet today with the Iraqi tribunal's chief judge, Aref
Shahin, to deliver a letter detailing Ms. Arbour's concerns, this
person said.

The Ramadan case places the Bush administration in a difficult
dilemma. On the one hand, officials fear the bad publicity, claims of
martyrdom and street violence a questionable execution could provoke.
Yet they also want to avoid appearing to intervene in the Iraqi legal
system, undercutting broader U.S. attempts to portray Iraq as a
sovereign nation.

"There's no question that we have raised concerns with this appeals
process," an administration official in Washington said, adding that
the U.S. uses "funding and other things as leverage" to influence
tribunal conduct. But "I don't want to substitute our judgment for
the judgment of the Iraqi courts" or "micromanage the process," the
official added.

On Nov. 5, Mr. Hussein and two co-defendants received death sentences
from the trial court, and after the appeals chamber rapidly affirmed
their verdicts, were hanged in a manner widely criticized as vengeful
and amateurish. The Dec. 30 hanging was captured on video showing the
execution party jeering Mr. Hussein as he stood at the gallows. Two
weeks later, Mr. Hussein's half-brother, former secret-police chief
Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was decapitated by his noose. The third
man was hanged apparently without incident.

See continuing coverage2 of developments in Iraq, including an
interactive map of day-to-day events3 in Iraq and a tally of military

U.S. officials worry the perfunctory appeals, rush to the gallows and
gruesome execution footage fueled perceptions that the
American-backed, Shiite-dominated Iraqi government was more
interested in vengeance than justice for the ousted Sunni regime.
"They turned him into a martyr," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
said of Mr. Hussein.

Western officials in Baghdad who have worked with the tribunal worry
the Ramadan case could similarly inflame passions, saying it is the
latest example of Iraqi political interference in the court's
proceedings. Several judges considered too lenient by the government
have been removed, they say, and throughout the trial, Prime Minister
Nouri al Maliki and other officials suggested the verdicts in the
trial of Mr. Hussein and his co-defendants were a foregone

Mr. Maliki's liaison to the tribunal, Basam Ridha, said in an
interview that the government had not tried to influence the court
and that Iraqi law allows the appellate chamber to approve harsher
sentences than trial courts hand down.

Mr. Ridha noted that the sole defendant acquitted by the tribunal,
former Baath Party official Mohammed Azawi, was released. To ensure
Mr. Azawi's safety, "we kept it secret, we gave him bodyguards and
support to make sure he's OK and that nobody could hurt him," Mr.
Ridha said. "We let go the guy who was ordered to go free."

Few doubt that Mr. Ramadan, the Ten of Diamonds in the pack of "most
wanted" playing cards given to U.S. soldiers, was involved in
atrocities over the years. In 2002, Mr. Ramadan suggested Baghdad and
Washington settle their differences with a duel -- he and Mr. Hussein
against Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials, Western legal advisers and human-rights
observers in Baghdad say prosecutors never adequately linked Mr.
Ramadan to the killings for which he is now expected to die. An
execution now, they say, will foreclose the chance of holding him to
account for other crimes where stronger evidence might more clearly
justify a capital sentence.

The trial concerned a retaliatory crackdown on the Shiite village of
Dujail after Mr. Hussein escaped a 1982 assassination attempt there.
Evidence showed nearly 150 men died in custody or by execution and
some 1,500 villagers were arrested, sent to camps or tortured and
much of their property was destroyed. Dujail was a stronghold of
Prime Minister Maliki's Dawa Party.

Mr. Ramadan headed the Popular Army, a Baath Party militia that
carried out the Dujail attacks. His conviction apparently was based
on the theory of command responsibility, in which superiors can be
held accountable for the crimes of subordinates.

The trial chamber scheduled a hearing to confirm the sentence on Jan.
25, but after U.N. and U.S. officials raised concerns, that was
postponed to Feb. 12. Should the death sentence be confirmed, Iraqi
law provides for an execution within 30 days, Mr. Ridha said.

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