[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 18 11:06:40 CDT 2005
Abdul Kalam's direction to review the cases of some people on death row
might have left the government in a dilemma, but it appears to have given
a new momentum to the campaign against the death penalty.
Advising the government to consider pardon for 20 of the 55 individuals on
death row who have sought presidential clemency, Kalam has reportedly
suggested new benchmarks for reviewing death row cases.
Bikramjit Batra of the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), the
NGO that has been leading a campaign against capital punishment, said
Kalam's intervention had given a fillip to the movement to abolish the
"We are happy that our campaign has got support from a person like the
president. It has definitely give new life to our campaign against the
death penalty," Batra told IANS.
Voluntary organisations that have been campaigning against the death
sentence have pointed out that there are only 78 countries, including
India, which have retained the death sentence after 2004.
Kalam is said to have asked the government to consider the nature of the
crime and a convict's age, health and family ties apart from his or her
behaviour in prison while reviewing death row cases.
Officials in the home ministry confirmed that a file rejecting pardon for
20 convicts, whom Kalam had found fit for forgiveness, had been returned
by the president to the ministry with the advice to reconsider the
"The file is with the judicial cell and no decision has yet been taken on
it," said a source in the home ministry.
Officials said it was "almost impossible" for the government to provide
pardon to the 20 people, whom courts had found guilty and convicted. "We
have to consider a lot of issues before taking any decision on clemency,"
said an official.
"A decision might demoralise the investigation officers, who struggled to
punish the guilty, and its social impact also cannot be ignored. We cannot
simply go by emotions in this issue," the official remarked.
He pointed out a similar kind of uncertainty had been there in the case of
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was hanged in August last year for raping and
murdering a teenager in Kolkata.
"We were under pressure from civil organisations across the world to
pardon him. Besides the president also wanted to pardon him as he
(Chatterjee) was young and he had a family to support," the official said.
However, the Congress-led government and the home ministry insisted that
Chatterjee be given "due punishment".
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were over 1,140
convicts on death row in Indian prisons till 2003. They included those
convicted by high courts.
Among them, 50 approached Rashtrapati Bhavan for presidential pardon.
The Rome statute, adopted by 120 nations for creating the International
Criminal Court, rejects the death penalty. Till June last year, 118
countries had abolished the death penalty.
"However, the number of countries which actually execute prisoners are
much smaller in number," said Sanjeev Poojary, a member of the national
executive committee of Amnesty International.
(source: New Kerala)
Hussein Goes on Trial Tomorrow, and Iraqis See a First Accounting
On Wednesday, 22 months after he was dragged from his hiding place in an
underground bunker, Saddam Hussein will appear in an Iraqi court to answer
for the brutalities he inflicted on his fellow Iraqis.
But what should be a moment of triumph for his victims is instead stirring
concern about the fairness and competence of the court itself.
The special Iraqi tribunal established to conduct the trial has chosen a
case that many Iraqis believe to be too narrow to answer the widespread
yearning for Mr. Hussein to be held to account for the most savage of his
crimes. And the political pressure to hasten the trial has forced the
tribunal to accelerate some of the work needed to prepare for other cases
involving tens of thousands of victims, nearly 300 mass graves and about
40 tons of documents gathered from the government agencies that oversaw
While many Iraqis are eager for the moment when they see Mr. Hussein in
the dock, Western human rights groups and legal experts have warned that
the former dictator is unlikely to get a fair trial, and that the probable
outcome, a death sentence, will be what the tribunal's harshest critics
have described as "victor's justice."
Critics here and abroad have said that the proper forum for the trials
would have been an international tribunal of the kind that has spent four
years hearing the case against the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan
Milosevic, in The Hague.
Mr. Hussein, along with seven other defendants, will begin the accounting
for his past in a case centering on the execution of more than 140 men and
teenage boys in Dujail, a mostly Shiite market town 35 miles north of
Baghdad. The victims were seized by the secret police after an
assassination attempt against Mr. Hussein there in 1982.
Iraqi officials say they expect the trial to be quickly adjourned,
possibly after an opening session of only a few hours. The next session
could be delayed for weeks, possibly until after the new year, partly to
weigh motions for dismissal by defense lawyers.
Even tribunal officials, who asked not to be identified because they
feared they could be dismissed, say a quick adjournment could be a relief,
sparing them the embarrassment of seeing the proceedings unravel as
inexperienced Iraqi judges and prosecutors are exposed to the pressure of
a trial that will attract worldwide attention, and to arrangements in the
courtroom, including an on-again-off-again dispute over live television
coverage, which have been the subject of last-minute wrangling.
The concern that the tribunal will not first take up the most sweeping and
heinous of the crimes ascribed to the 68-year-old former ruler runs
strongest among the Shiites and Kurds who suffered the most at his hands,
and whose representatives now dominate the government.
Iraqi and Western human rights groups estimate that at least 300,000
Iraqis, mostly Shiites and Kurds, were killed by Mr. Hussein's ruthless
machinery of repression, a figure that does not count the hundreds of
thousands who died in the wars he conducted against Iran and Kuwait.
Iraqi officials say they chose to begin with the Dujail case, in the face
of government pressure to hasten Mr. Hussein into court, because it would
be relatively straightforward to prosecute, centering on a sequence of
well-documented events, from the day of the assassination attempt through
the death sentences handed down by Mr. Hussein's court and the executions
at Abu Ghraib prison.
The pressure has come from Iraq's new rulers, many of whom were victims of
Mr. Hussein and his associates, having lost relatives in his gulag and
fled into exile themselves. Senior tribunal officials, speaking on
condition of anonymity, gave as their reason for acceding to government
pressure the threat of being dismissed, as nine administrative officers
were in July, under a mostly unenforced tribunal provision barring anybody
who was a Baath Party member from work as an investigator, prosecutor or
judge. Under Mr. Hussein, party membership was a requirement for any Iraqi
entering a judicial college.
The political interference has been vigorously resisted by Americans who
work in the Regime Crimes Liaison Office, established to help prepare for
the trial, and, on several occasions, with direct appeals to the Iraqi
leaders by officials in the White House and the State Department, tribunal
The pressures began almost as soon as formal sovereignty was restored to
Iraq last year, under Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and have continued under
the successor government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Iraqi leaders have forced the appointment and later dismissal of a
succession of tribunal officials in the past 15 months, including 3 men
who served as the tribunal's administrative director.
Recently, the Jaafari government rushed a new charter for the tribunal
through the transitional parliament, inserting provisions some critics saw
as narrowing defendants' rights laid out in the earlier, American-drafted
charter. One change, critics say, could be used to substitute a
Hussein-era standard for finding defendants guilty - the "satisfaction" of
the judges - replacing the American standard of requiring guilt beyond a
But perhaps the most serious interference has involved the pressure that
Iraqi politicians have placed on the tribunal to fast-forward Mr.
Hussein's first trial and to impose a quick death sentence. The most
egregious example came last month, when the Iraqi president, Jalal
Talabani, a Kurd, and one of three men in Iraq's presidential council who
would have to ratify a death sentence against Mr. Hussein, told the
state-run Iraqiya television network that tribunal officials had told him
that Mr. Hussein had admitted to ordering the massacres of Kurds during an
Iraqi military offensive in the closing stages of the 1980's Iran-Iraq
war, known to Iraqis as the Anfal campaign.
"He confessed about the Anfal executions, and the orders issued by his
name," Mr. Talabani said. "Saddam should be executed 20 times."
On Monday, a strongly critical 19-page review of the tribunal and its
legal procedures was issued by Human Rights Watch, the New York-based
group, which said its study had "given rise to serious concerns" about the
tribunal's "capacity to conduct trials that are fair, and perceived among
the Iraqi population to be fair."
Similar criticisms have been leveled by Amnesty International and other
human rights and legal monitoring groups in the United States and Europe.
Critics have been countered by other Western legal experts who say the
tribunal offers safeguards that compare well with those at the
international tribunal in The Hague, and exceed by a wide margin anything
previously seen in a politically-sensitive trial in the Middle East. Both
sides in the argument will have observers at the trial.
Partly, critics have focused on the pervasive American involvement in
organizing, financing and guiding the tribunal. That involvement has
extended to providing the $138 million that has been used partly to
remodel the former Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad into a courthouse
with two side-by-side, state-of-the-art courtrooms, and partly to support
a team of 50 American, British and Australian lawyers, investigators,
forensic experts and archivists in the liaison office.
In the face of an Iraqi legal system that virtually disintegrated under
Mr. Hussein, the liaison office has been the real power behind the
tribunal, advising, and often deciding, on almost every facet of its work,
always behind a shield of anonymity.
The tribunal officials say subsequent trials will deal with Mr. Hussein's
more brutal crimes, including the killing of tens of thousands of Kurds
and Shiites in pogroms carried out by Mr. Hussein in the late 1980's and
early 1990's. They say that preparations for the second case against the
former dictator are now nearing completion. That trial will center on
attacks on dozens of Kurdish villages in the Anfal offensive, some
involving chemical weapons, the worst of them the attack on the town of
Halabja in February 1988.
That case, the Iraqi officials say, could eventually run in tandem with
the Dujail trial, with Mr. Hussein shuttling, on separate days, between
the two courtrooms. The officials say no decision has been made as to
whether Mr. Hussein, if sentenced to death in the Dujail case, would be
executed before the other trials are completed. But many Iraqis are
doubtful that any move to hang the former ruler would be approved by the
country's new rulers before at least some of the wider cases have been
Khalil al-Dulaimi, the Iraqi lawyer leading Mr. Hussein's defense, is
planning several motions to dismiss the case. The motions will center on
the lack of time defense attorneys say they have had to review 800 pages
of evidence amassed by prosecutors; the supposed failure of American and
Iraqi officials to allow the attorneys to consult with their clients often
enough; and the contention that the tribunal itself is illegitimate, since
it was established under the American occupation in 2003, and operates
outside of the established Iraqi legal structure.
One issue that was unsettled Monday was whether there would be live
television coverage. Officials told broadcasters they expected a
television feed from the courtroom to be made available to Iraqi and
foreign television networks, but with a 20-minute delay.
The provision appeared intended to allow the tribunal to censor any
untoward developments in the court - an outburst from Mr. Hussein,
perhaps, or a security breakdown. Only one English-language print reporter
at a time will be allowed in the courtroom, a position assigned by a
lottery supervised by American officials.
Last month, Mr. Hussein dismissed all the lawyers who had registered with
the tribunal to represent him except Mr. Dulaimi, a 42-year-old attorney
with limited experience in complex criminal cases, who is from Ramadi, a
Sunni Arab city 80 miles west of Baghdad that is a bastion of support for
Mr. Hussein. Since last December, Mr. Dulaimi has met with Mr. Hussein at
least five times at Camp Cropper, the American Army detention center near
Baghdad airport where Mr. Hussein has been held.
One senior tribunal official, speaking on condition he not be identified,
said he believed the problems that Mr. Hussein's lawyers have had
preparing for the trial stemmed from a strategy that centered on
presenting a deliberately weak and disorganized defense that would lend an
aura of farce to the trial proceedings. "They want the tribunal to look
foolish, and Saddam to look as though he has been deprived of any real
defense," the official said. "With the strength of the case against him,
it may be their best way of fighting the case."
(source: New York Times)
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