Iraq: UN human rights chief expresses regret at hanging of Saddam’s co-defendants

Iraq: UN human rights chief expresses regret at hanging of Saddam’s co-defendants

Louise Arbour
The top United Nations human rights official has voiced regret over today’s execution in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, of the two co-defendants of former president Saddam Hussein.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour released a statement saying she also held concerns over the fairness and impartiality of the trial that led to the death sentences imposed on Awad Hamad al-Bandar and Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan. The two men had been found guilty last year of crimes against the civilian population of the town of Dujail in 1982.

“The imposition of the death penalty after a trial and appeal proceedings that do not respect the principles of due process amounts to a violation of the right to life,” she said.

Ms. Arbour said that while bringing those people responsible for serious human rights violations to justice is crucial for effective national reconciliation, “to be credible and durable the fight against impunity must be based on respect for international human rights standards and the rule of law, and must not come at their expense.”

The High Commissioner added that while she is opposed to capital punishment under all circumstances, in this case it also means it is “more difficult to have a complete judicial accounting of other, equally horrendous, crimes committed in Iraq.”

Earlier this month, citing concerns about the impartiality of the trial, Ms. Arbour issued a direct appeal to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asking that the two co-defendants not be executed. That call was endorsed at the time by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, who today joined Ms. Arbour in voicing regret at the executions.