U.S. rights group calls on Baghdad to halt hangings

Times Staff Writer

A top international human rights group on Monday called on the Iraqi government to halt the execution of two aides to Saddam Hussein as a trial against the dead dictator and his deputies resumed in Baghdad.

The planned executions “highlight the Iraqi government’s disturbing disregard for human rights and the rule of law,” said the statement from New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“The haste and vengeance infusing Saddam Hussein’s hanging should prompt the Iraqi government to halt these executions,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program, in the statement, describing the aides’ executions as “cruel and inhuman punishment that will only drag a deeply flawed process into even greater disrepute.”


The deposed dictator was hanged in Baghdad on Dec. 30. The executions of his half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, and former Revolutionary Court Judge Awad Hamed Bandar have been postponed several times under pressure from leaders worldwide.

Like Hussein, the two were found guilty for their roles in the executions of 148 Shiite Muslim men and boys from the village of Dujayl after an assassination attempt against the dictator there in 1982.

In a separate trial, a judge on Monday officially dropped the charges against Hussein who, with six codefendants, was accused of crimes against humanity in connection with a brutal military campaign against Kurds in the northern part of Iraq in the late 1980s. The trial of the six others continued.

On Monday, the court heard tapes of Hussein and his cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, nicknamed Chemical Ali for his alleged role in gas attacks on the Kurds, talking about exterminating thousands with chemical arms.

“They will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them, until we can finally purge them,” a voice identified as Hussein’s said on the tape.

Later in Monday’s session, Majid referred to “the martyr Saddam Hussein” in an exchange with Judge Mohammed Orabi Khalefa.

“Do not poke in other issues,” Khalefa interrupted. “We are banned from judging the dead or talking about their issues in the courthouse after they were put to justice. You cannot mix your case with that of Saddam.”

Arab and Western leaders criticized the hanging of Hussein after it was revealed that some of those present at his execution last month mocked him as he went to his death. A widely circulated video clip, recorded with a cellphone, shows observers chanting, “Muqtada, Muqtada,” an apparent reference to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, during the hanging. Sunnis in Iraq and elsewhere said the taunts proved the sectarian nature of the execution.

Early today, wire services reported, a video was posted on the Internet showing Hussein’s corpse with a neck wound, apparently filmed with a camera phone just after his hanging.

Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “strongly urged the government of Iraq to grant a stay of execution” for Bandar and Hasan.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has dismissed the criticism, describing the executions as an internal Iraqi matter.

Hussein’s death and the guards’ behavior have further inflamed sectarian tensions in Iraq, where a civil war combined with a bloody insurgency claims hundreds of lives every week. President Bush is expected to unveil a new strategy for Iraq this week, including the deployment of more American troops.

Fighting and abductions continued Monday. In Baghdad, gunmen fired at a bus carrying airport workers, killing four and injuring nine. Bombs and other shootings killed at least 25 others during attacks in or near the capital. At least 27 people were found dead, two in the southern city of Kut and the rest in the capital.

The U.S. military announced that two American troops were killed Sunday. One soldier was shot during repair work to a road north of Baghdad; the other died of wounds received fighting in Salahuddin province.


Times staff writer Zeena Kareem contributed to this report.