Another day, another execution!
Another day, another execution!
Only this time the executed was one of the 20th century's worst butchers of man kind.
Saddam Hussein was executed on the 30th December 2006 for crimes against humanity.

A charge more serious on earth does not exist. From the gassing of Iraqi Kurds, Shi'ites both Iraqi and Iranian, torture, mutilation, rape and execution of Iraqi's from all sects and faiths Saddam had ordered them all. The case against him was strong, the evidence mountains high and the list of potential witnesses literally stretching into the thousands.

Should Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad, been executed? If the video of his execution does not persuade you enough that the death penalty is and does constitute a crime against Human Rights, then consider the following.

In the context of the death penalty what you have just seen is relatively sedate. For many this will be the first time they have witnessed via television or the internet the cold reality of the death penalty. Having seen many more executions, you have seen what I consider the most "mild" execution I have personally seen on film. From death by stoning, being beheaded, delayed death via lethal injection, decapitation from hanging to the disaster of inaccurate marksmen executions very rarely go to plan. In fact there is no method of execution on earth that is not cruel and unusual punishment; a charge that itself is a breach of International law. The most favoured method championed by "civilized" societies who still continue this barbaric practice is the lethal injection. Having recently taken more than 30 minutes to kill a man Florida and California have suspended even this practice that uses chemicals vets now refuse to put down animals with.

If you support the death penalty it is therefore clear you support cruel and unusual punishment that constitutes torture. But is Saddam any different? Can an exception be made for a man that has ordered the very same for many thousands. The answer is no and as a World Leader recently said, you are either with us or against us. There is no middle ground when it comes to the death penalty. International and Human Rights Law is very clear, we are all equal before the law and are entitled to certain inalienable rights. There are no caveats, no ifs, buts or maybes. If you believe that Saddam Hussein's crimes where a breach of International law and Human Rights standards then logically you must also agree that his execution breached the same. Just as we don't allow victims of violent assault to then legally assault their attacker nor should we allow a state who outlaws murder, to carry out that very act. We cannot say on the one hand we believe murder to be the most horrendous of crimes and on the other justify doing it ourselves or through proxies. We cannot say that Human rights are for all and then break those very rules, no matter the circumstance.

If you are yet to be convinced then there is yet further persuading argument as to why his execution was intolerable.

Amnesty International described the court proceedings in which Hussein's case was heard. "This trial...has been a shabby affair, marred by serious flaws that call into question the capacity of the tribunal, as currently established, to administer justice fairly, in conformity with international standards." If justice is yet to be served, how can a sentence let along an execution be carried out? To take this one step further it must be remembered that Saddam was charged and convicted of only one of the many mass crimes he committed. The victims of the other crimes will never have their story told, their families will never have their day in court and the pages of history can never stamp their death's at the hands of Saddam as justice delivered. His trial was not so much about prosecuting crimes against humanity but rather swift and brutal revenge for crimes of a similar nature.

Saddam Hussein should have been tried by an International court such as that in The Hague. He should have faced unbiased Judges, International prosecutors and the endless line up of witnesses to tell their stories against him. He should have been entitled to a defense council of his choosing and been given the right to defend himself against all charges leveled against him. The trial would not have been quick, particularly for Saddam who would have been faced with the task of listening to 100's of days of testimony against him outlining each and every charge of crime against humanity he had so obviously committed. His guilt is not in much question, his treatment, his trial and his execution are. An International hearing would have proved a stark reminder to the despots of this world that they will be hauled before a panel of their international peers and face the full weight of International law. Sadly Saddam's case only fortifies in the minds of the world's dictators that to beat justice they must simply cling to power and they have done and will continue to do so in the most brutal of fashions.

Finally attention must be turned to the people of Iraq. It is they who have suffered more than any others at the hands of Saddam. Yet his execution, takes place in a climate of civil war, it adds a new destabilising factor and places the people of Iraq in ever increasing danger, as if that threat was not yet high enough. The Iraqi Prime Minister who ultimately signed Saddam's fate has been under considerable pressure from one of Iraq's new most violent men, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose own father was killed by Saddam's government. The taunts of his Shi'ite executioners could have been the same once heard in those very gallows by Saddam's own executioners. Yet this time the taunt was "Moqtada, Moqtada" instead of "Saddam, Saddam." Justice has not been done and the cycle of horrific violence continues. The death penalty has again failed. There would have been a lot less losers had the trial been fair and the sentence life.

The Impact in Australia

A conviction that reeks of revenge, a show trial, and an outcome that in dangers those who it claims to protect is not justice. A sentence that is itself so barbaric as to constitute a crime surely tests our resolve on the issue of the death penalty. For those who still find the fence a safe place to sit for the fact that it was Saddam being executed and not a young Iranian girl whose crime was to be raped makes leaning to the side of revenge a little easier. What it should do however is reinforce our steadfast opposition to the death penalty. That no matter how despicable the crimes of an individual, we will not allow our society to replicate the same.

For Australia the execution brings home some truths we are about to face. For six of the so called Bali Nine a similar, yet even more brutal execution awaits and we seek our political leader's intervention to prevent such a crime. Yet while Europe unreservedly condemned the execution of Saddam, despite many of Europe's nations having waged two wars against him our government in Australia felt justice had been done. While the Vatican's leaders condemned any and all executions "The killing of the guilty party is not the way to reconstruct justice and reconcile society. On the contrary, there is a risk that it will feed a spirit of vendetta and sow new violence."
Our leader Prime Minister Howard justified the execution stating "I believe there is something quite heroic about a country that is going through the pain and the suffering that Iraq is going through, yet still extends due process to somebody who was a tyrant and brutal suppressor and murderer of his people."

While the man who is our representative to the world and will spear head the government fight to save the six young Australian's in Bali, Alexander Downer claimed "He has been brought to justice".

This calls into question just how seriously, if at all, our government opposes the death penalty. More worryingly it clearly contradicts our nation's obligation as a signatory to the second optional protocol to the ICCPR that opposes the death penalty unreservedly. Worst of all it pays lip service to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Geneva Convention's that were so hard fought for thousands of Australian's gave up their lives so that we could enjoy the security, freedom and peace they seek to protect.

Our leaders and all citizens' must not and should not have such a caviler attitude to Human Rights. Even the single execution of a dictator in a far off land weakens our moral standing and resolve. Murder, is Murder, is Murder. And as one great defender of Human Rights who gave his own life such was his belief in them proclaimed "Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere."

Video of Saddam Hussein Execution

Martin Hodgson
Anti-Death penalty coordinator

F.P.S.S Note: We do NOT support Saddam Hussein or condone his actions in any way, indeed to overlook his actions is to ignore the plight of thousands who suffered brutal pain & loss at the hands of this man. As bad as this person may have been, his murder by hanging does little to separate the hangman from the person in the noose. By objecting to capital punishment we open our eyes and our minds to the new responsibility of punishment in this modern era of enlightened humanity and awareness. - P.Cross

Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights
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