UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – Amnesty International (AI), the London-based human rights watchdog, said that whatever court tries deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and others should be seen to be fair.

“The court must be competent, independent and impartial, and follow procedures that are fully consistent with international safeguards for his trial,” AI said.

During an interview on ABC, President George W. Bush said that Saddam Hussein should face “the ultimate penalty.”


“He is a torturer, a murderer, and they had rape rooms, and this is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice,” Mr. Bush said. However, he insisted that it was for the Iraqi people to decide Saddam Hussein’s trial and punishment.

The Bush administration has made it known in diplomatic circles that the United States would not object if Mr. Hussein was given the death penalty, even though this could reopen divisions within the United Nations and even among several allies who have already objected to the use of capital punishment.

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, has said that Mr. Hussein could face the death penalty if convicted in an Iraqi court. Hoshyar Zebari, minister for foreign affairs of Iraq, told the Security Council on December 16 that “Saddam Hussein must now answer to the Iraqi people for his crimes against humanity.”

Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, has already come out strongly against capital punishment. He was taken to task for his saying no to death for the former Iraqi president in editorials that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel and the Boston Herald. “As secretary-general, as the UN, as an organization, we are not going to turn around and support the death penalty,” Mr. Annan said. Britain, the main U.S. ally in the Iraq war, has also signaled opposition to the execution of Mr. Hussein.

The Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, who is a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president, is supporting the death penalty. Mr. Lieberman ruled out the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it is not empowered to impose the death penalty. Responding to a reporter’s question on the “Meet The Press” show, Mr. Lieberman said, “So, my first question about where he’s going to be tried will be answered by whether the tribunal can execute him.”

“This man has to face the death penalty,” Senator Lieberman stressed.

Former secretary of state Madeline K. Albright told the Washington Post that it was important to involve an international tribunal in the prosecution of Mr. Hussein.

The newspaper said Ms. Albright, who served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, told their reporters that the “question of the death penalty” will be one of the “trickiest” to deal with. “Having found him and the fact that we did not kill him helps our credibility,” Ms. Albright said.

Michael Scharf, who heads the office, said the format of any trial is still far from clear, but Saddam Hussein could face broad-ranging charges of crimes against the Iraqi people and crimes against humanity. He said Saddam Hussein was likely to copy the strategy of former Yugoslavian leader Slobadan Milosevic, whose trial in The Hague has gone on for two years.

“Saddam could represent himself and spend years blasting anti-American rhetoric,” Mr. Scharf said. “He could also try to ensure that the trial turns into a big embarrassment for the United States, by calling all kinds of dignitaries as witnesses, including people such as Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense,” Mr. Scharf added.

A columnist writing in the Washington Times said: “France and Germany must be nervous about what a trial could reveal about their complicity in enabling Saddam for three decades. American politicians and companies might also be concerned because their policies and decisions could also be made public. Good. Embarrassment should not be a reason for any cover-up.”

According to Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington-based think tank, a trial offers an opportunity not just to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but also to examine the broader issues of the past 40 years in Iraqi history.

Ms. Bennis suggests that the trial of Mr. Hussein should go beyond just the issues of his behavior and “ask who were his enablers, who funded these weapons of mass destruction?” That’s definitely what Mr. Bush wants to avoid, Ms. Bennis said. “I expect Washington to maintain tight control over the process and lay down the procedures for the trial,” she added.

Washington has already placed its hand in the process, with the establishment of a domestic tribunal to try Iraqi war criminals, which was created by the Iraqi Governing Council, reportedly on close advice by members of the Bush administration.

However, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a Geneva-based international non-governmental organization comprised of 60 of the world’s most eminent jurists, issued a press release that expressed equal concern over a tribunal made up of Iraqis only.

“The ICJ has serious concerns as to whether a tribunal comprising exclusively or predominately Iraqi judges, prosecutors and investigators will have the capacity or expertise to carry out trials of the complexity envisaged,” the statement read.

While acknowledging that the Iraqi people have been the most directly affected by the abuses of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials, and that “a legitimate, democratically elected Iraqi Government, if one emerges in a reasonable time, should play a central role in determining how they are to be tried,” the group cautions that the court should not be used to exact vengeance or exercise political opportunism, whether it is Iraqi, international or a hybrid of both.

The group also noted that the crimes for which Mr. Hussein and other deposed officials will likely be accused “may involve Iranian and Kuwaiti victims from wars fought with those countries. The deposed Iraqi leader presided over a regime responsible for hundreds of thousands of unlawful killings, many of which constitute crimes against humanity and, possibly, acts of genocide.”