Nisa Islam Muhammad
Staff Writers

NEW YORK ( – Countries around the world have expressed great outrage at the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, 69, December 30. From the United Nations to Cuba to London to Russia, to Saudi Arabia, the responses of condemnation have been loud and clear.

The special representative for the United Nations secretary-general in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, issued a statement from his office in Baghdad, which was distributed to the press: “The United Nations stands firmly against impunity, and understands the desire for justice felt by many Iraqis. Based on the principle of respect for the right of life, however, the United Nations remains opposed to capital punishment, even in the case of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

According to news reports, Mr. Hussein was hanged a few minutes before 6am Iraqi time at a military facility in northern Baghdad. He had been convicted in November of killing 148 Shi’as after a failed assassination attempt in 1982.


Iraqi television showed Mr. Hussein being placed in a noose by hangmen, but not of the actual execution, according to Al-Jazeera. Iraqi television did however, show footage of his body.

Al-Jazeera said that eyewitnesses explained that the former Iraqi president shouted on his way to the scaffold, “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet.” There were also reports of that he stated loudly, Allah-u-Akbar (God is Great).

Associated Press reported that Cuba also condemned the execution of Mr. Hussein and called for the end to the war it said had caused the suffering of millions of innocent Iraqis.

The execution was, “an illegal act in a country that has been driven toward an internal conflict in which millions of citizens have been exiled or lost their lives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official National Information Agency.

The statement acknowledged that Cuba “has not yet abolished the death penalty because of the brutal war imposed on it by the United States,” referring to the U.S. government’s long-standing policy to undermine the island country, including trade and travel sanctions.

The New York Times reported that in a statement issued an hour after the execution, Margaret Beckett, London’s foreign secretary, said: “I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account.”

However, she said, “The British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation.”

In London, according to The New York Times, the execution also revived the ideological divide between supporters and opponents of the 2003 invasion. Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, which opposed the war, said: “Saddam Hussein’s death does not vindicate in any way the ill-conceived and disastrous decision to invade Iraq. His execution does not make an illegal war legal any more than it will put an end to the violence and destruction.”

Erkki Tuomioja, the foreign minister of Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said, “The European Union has a very consistent stand on opposing the death penalty and it should not have been applied in this case either–even though there is no doubt about Saddam Hussein’s guilt over serious violations against human rights.” The New York Times reported.

The Vatican went so far as to call the execution “tragic”–echoing expressions of revulsion by Muslim leaders, both in the West and in the broader Islamic world.

“A capital punishment is always tragic news, a reason for sadness, even if it deals with a person who was guilty of grave crimes,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. “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.”

The paper also reported that in Russia, the Foreign Ministry strongly criticized the execution, expressing regret that Iraqi officials disregarded international appeals not to carry it out. A spokesman, Mikhail L. Kamynin, expressed concern that Mr. Hussein’s execution would worsen already deathly tensions consuming Iraq.

“The situation in Iraq is developing negatively,” Mr. Kamynin said in a statement. “The country is sinking into violence and is effectively on the brink of a wide-scale civil conflict.”

Other nations, like India, voiced regret according to The New York Times. The Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “We had already expressed the hope that the execution would not be carried out. We are disappointed that it has been. We hope that this unfortunate event will not affect the process of reconciliation, restoration of peace and normalcy in Iraq,” according to the New York Times.

On December 30, protesters in New York City and Detroit gathered to protest the execution.

“The execution of Saddam Hussein is a clear signal that [Pres. G.W.] Bush intends to escalate the war. The Baker Commission recommended that Bush sit down with all parties in Iraq, including the Baathists; and this is a signal that there aren’t going to be any negotiations,” stated Dustin Langley, spokesman for the International Action Center/Troops Out Now who called for the protest in NYC.

The Detroit protest was called for by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Justice.

“We’re here in opposition to the execution of Saddam, which was carried out under a colonial occupation, but also in opposition to the occupation itself,” Mr. Langley said.

In a statement issued from the White House, Mr. Bush said, “Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial–the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.”

Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. Attorney General and a founder of the International Action Center; as well as a member of Mr. Hussein’s defense team issued a press release about President Bush’s decision to turn the former president over to the Iraqi authorities. “This will have long term consequences for the peace and stability of Iraq and for the rule of law as a means to peace”.

The Associated Press said there were 68 Iraqis killed by bombs hours after the execution.

Reuters is reporting from London that the Baath Party urged Iraqis to “strike without mercy” against the U.S. occupiers.

While many governments spoke out against the hanging, there were governments that approved.

Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard said the execution was a sign that Iraq was trying to embrace democracy, according to the AP. A Japanese official said his government respected Iraq’s decision to execute Mr. Hussein, saying the act was based on the rule of law.

Israel hailed the execution, saying the former president brought about his own demise.

The Iranian news agency, IRNA carried a story saying that Iranian officials welcomed the hanging, saying “it was victory for all Iraqis.”

France, another capital punishment opponent called, on Iraqis to work towards reconciliation and national unity.

There was very strong condemnation from the governments of Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Saudi leaders criticized the timing of the execution by Iraq’s leaders saying, “Leaders of Islamic countries should show respect for the blessed occasion of the Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), not demean it,” according the official news agency SPA.

Critics of the execution say that the timing of the execution was clearly intended to pre-empt news stories that the death toll of U.S. service people in Iraq has hit 3,000.

Libya has declared three-days of official mourning and has canceled all celebrations of Eid al-Adha. Al-Jazeera stated that Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi made an “indirect” appeal for Mr. Hussein’s life, saying the trial was illegal.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement from its director, Richard Dicker, condemning the hanging, saying history would judge the trial and execution harshly. HRW also complained that the former Iraqi leader did not receive a fair trial.

The American Friends Service Committee based in Philadelphia wrote on their website, that there are “questions of law and procedure, which have remained unanswered.”