Ban cool on envoy’s words denouncing execution of Saddam
New United Nations SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 2 backedawayfromcommentsbythe world body’s top representative in Iraq criticizing the execution of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
MeetingreportersinNewYorkon his first full day on the job, Mr. Ban said Saddam was guilty of “heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities against the Iraqi people, and we should never forget the victims of these crimes.”
“The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide,” said the South Korean diplomat. “[. . . ] While I am firmly against impunity, I also hope that the members of the international community should pay due regard to all aspects of international humanitarian law.”
On Dec. 31, the day Saddam was hanged in a north Baghdad prison, Ashraf Qazi, the U.N. point man in Baghdad,issuedastatementsaying theUnitedNationsflatlyopposedthe death penalty, regardless of the crimes for which it is imposed.
TheUnitedNations“understands thedesireforjusticefeltbythemany Iraqis,” said Mr. Qazi, a Pakistani diplomat.
“Based on the principle of respect for the right to life, however, theUnitedNationsremainsopposed to capital punishment, even in the cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”
Aftershocksfromtheexecutionof Saddam, 69, continued to roil the Iraqi political scene after images from a leaked cell-phone video recording showed some of the witnesses taunting the former dictator in the moments before he was hanged.
Many fear the raucous scene at the dingy prison room execution — on the first day of a major Sunni Muslim holiday — will only inflame sectarian violence in the country.
“This man destroyed 35 years of my life, for many years I dreamed about his death. But when I saw it, I was angry,” said a Shi’ite Muslim doctor who watched the televised execution.
“When you take a man’s life, it should be with respect,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
A Sunni former military officer jailed twice by Saddam’s regime said Saddam, unlike his executioners, behaved like a “real man” in his final minutes.
“Killing him with this funny trial and in this way, and on this date, made Saddam an Islamic and Arab hero,” said the officer, who also declined to speak on the record.
Sami al-Askari, a close political adviser to Prime Minister Nouri alMaliki,toldtheAssociatedPressthat the prime minister had ordered an investigationtoidentifywhochanted slogans and leaked the video of the execution to the press. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd who has long opposed the death penalty, said in a statement he had not been aware the date for the execution had even been scheduled.
But Mr. al-Askari defended the decision to execute Saddam.
“This is an artificial uproar,” he told Iraqi state television. “[Critics] cannot say this court has been unjust, and so they take this mistake and forget that Saddam deserved to be executed.”
Betsy Pisik reported from New York.