Monday, February 20, 2006

Saddam Could be Executed "Soon"

The chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein's trial said yesterday that Saddam could be executed "within months" if he is convicted -- which seems increasingly likely. Article 27 of the IST Statute provides that all sentences "must be executed within 30 days of the date when the judgment becomes final and non-appealable."

The prosecutor's statement contradicts the assertion of some commentators that the Tribunal would stay any judgment in the Dujail case to allow Saddam to be tried for far more serious crimes, such as the ethnic cleansing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988, which is estimated to have killed as many as 182,000 people. According to the prosecutor, Ja'afar Moussawi, "[o]nce one of the accused on the Dujail case... has been sentenced to death, then he won't be tried on other charges. Other charges will automatically be dropped against that particular defendant, even if the case itself is brought against others."

Iraq would not violate international law by executing Saddam. According to Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

[i]n countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed... for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.

Nevertheless, as currently written, Article 27 of the IST Statute does violate international law. The Article prohibits any government authority, including the President of Iraq, from "grant[ing] a pardon or mitigat[ing] the punishment issued by the Court." Article 6(4) of the ICCPR, however, specifically provides that
Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.

Iraq is a party to the ICCPR.

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