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Hanging Justice in Iraq as Saddam Remains Very Much Alive

Hanging Justice in Iraq as Saddam Remains Very Much Alive

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Sunday 19 September 202110:40 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

الحبل شَنَقَ العدالة في العراق وترك صدام حسين حياً

Hatred and the desire for revenge have made the Iraqi opposition forces – those on the wrong side of Saddam Hussein rule who are seeking revenge - lose their ability to control tempers against those who tyrannized and subjugated them, killed them and their supporters, displaced them, and dragged them into wars that ruined them and their homeland.

Which is why Iraq’s opposition forces tried to strip the dictator of his rights, and unable to bear the idea that the ruler would be treated with respect inside a courtroom, they made him get a taste of his own “medicine” that he used to treat his people with for three decades.

In truth, the court, under the administration of Judge Rizgar Amin, who was criticized for his civilized and impartial behavior, was not defending the rights of Saddam Hussein. It was rather trying to prove the ugliness of the dictatorship that ruled over Iraq. The judge maintained his neutral position, but the pressure from the Council of Ministers and politicians on the judicial independence of the Court, the appointment of new rulers, and the blatant interference in the court’s proceedings made him submit his resignation.


One of the most important characteristics of court, the house of justice and equity, is neutrality and impartiality. In order to guarantee this condition, an independent authority called the Judicial Authority was established, just like the Executive Authority and the Legislative Authority.

Due to the importance of ensuring impartiality, investigations into the background of the members of the court and their personal and public relations are conducted. The competence of the judiciary isn’t announced before the issue of impartiality is confirmed. A member may be excluded if one of the litigants voiced an objection regarding his impartiality, due to relations of kinship, for instance, common interests he has with one of the rulers, or belonging to a certain party affiliated with the allegations, or even his relationship with a witness.

The first paragraph of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

Mr. Rizgar Amin says that the right to defense was theoretical, and kidnapping the defense lawyer and threatening others negatively affected the court and its credibility. He sees that not granting the right to defense makes the judge lose the balance in his scale of justice, even to the victims.

The Mahdawi Trials

The Mahdawi court trials were a big lesson that Iraqis learned nothing from. They were dubbed the Mahdawi court trials after Colonel Fadel al-Mahdawi, but are officially known as the “People’s Court”, established by order of Former Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim in 1958 and ended with the end of his rule.

Iraqis remember the interior minister of the Iraqi Monarchy, Said al-Qazzaz, who said, “I know you will sentence me to death, but when I climb onto the gallows, I will see people standing beneath my feet who do not deserve to live”

The courts’ proceedings were broadcast live on television, during which the defendants were insulted with words and conduct that completely contradicted neutrality and impartiality. At the time, critics said that these courts were the media front that represented the culture of the state during that period, clearly showing that it was biased. Some unacceptable behavior had also become a thorn in the side of Iraqi justice as it was practiced during the trials, including throwing ropes at the accused and chanting: “Execute, execute, do not speak, I don’t have time... Execute them tonight.”

Saddam’s Trial and the Men of Power

The same thing happened again in 2004, during the trial of Saddam Hussein. As before, the court sessions were broadcast on air and there were blatant violations of judicial procedure laws, with the exception of the time when Judge Rizgar Amin headed the proceedings. He was the only symbol of civilized conduct in that court, and was going to sentence Saddam to death in accordance with the law and in a transparent manner that would bring justice to the people and the victims before the accused himself.


Mr. Munir Haddad, the judge on the appeal court that approved the decision to execute Saddam Hussein, appeared on Kuwaiti state television during his visit to Kuwait. There, he spoke of the circumstances that preceded and accompanied the death sentence, in addition to various meetings with the defense authority that shed light on the government and executive authority’s control over the judiciary, which shattered the concept of judicial independence in that ruling.

Worse still is that Judge Haddad is from an active, campaigning family whose members were persecuted and tortured by the Baathist regime, according to his claims. Despite this, he was still allowed to be a judge in that case. In other words, the oppressor was presented to the oppressed so that he could exact revenge on him. And so, the impartiality of the court was completely dismantled.

Haddad later on proudly defends his decision to execute Saddam on the day of Eid, even though it is against the law. He also justifies the validity of the decision to choose Judge Rauf Rashid Abd al-Rahman as head of the first tribunal in the Iraqi High Criminal Court that tried Saddam, even though he was also one of those affected by the Anfal genocide, and has brothers who were executed.

Impartiality, the Spirit of Justice

A colleague told me about a hearing in the Stockholm Court House of a drug dealer who had six previous cases where he was tried, sentenced and convicted. In that new session, the judge was a young man in his late twenties who had asked the accused to give in his statement regarding the new charges made against him. And because the Public Prosecution wanted to deport him from the country, it submitted his entire file by mistake and placed it before the judge, who then became aware of the accused’s long history. After the accused finished giving his statement, denying any ties of selling the aforementioned drugs and saying, “I do not sell drugs,” the judge interrupted him and said, “But you have done this before.”

The veteran defense attorney suddenly rose up banging on the table and yelling, “You are not qualified to give a ruling on this case.”

“Why?” the governor, surprised by this sudden reaction, asked.

“Because you have prior assumptions (prejudgment) over it. In those cases, he was already tried and sentenced, and they ended,” the lawyer replied.

The court session was suspended, and a while later, the young judge came back in with an older judge. After the latter asked everyone to sit down, he assured the accused that justice would take its course, and the lawyer then stood up and explained the point of contention. The veteran judge listened to him and after he finished he said, “Right and wrong is a human condition that everyone is exposed to, but the important thing is that the error does not continue.” He smiled at the young judge and said to him, “You are not suited to preside over this case anymore, and another judge will carry on with this case. Indeed, a new ruler came in to preside over the session in order to ensure that impartiality is implemented.

Impartiality, a Rare Commodity

Impartiality is a value absent from life in the East, while the West is keen on upholding it. In some tragic cases of terrorism, for example, is the case of the Oslo mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right Norwegian who carried out two terrorist attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people. Many parents and relatives of the victims attended the session, and those who had misbehaved towards the terrorist were removed from the courtroom.

“The oppression that the Iraqi people were subjected to lost to the desire of Saddam’s enemies seeking vengeance and through blatant interference in the judiciary... Justice was compromised and the judicial authority is now without independence”

We see the scholars who oppose terrorism and demand retribution against the terrorist at the same time defending his rights, because they are in fact being protective of their own rights as a people and are keen on ensuring the continuation of the concept of justice for all within their societies.

Even though ten years have passed since the event, scholars are still studying the causes and reasons behind Anders Behring Breivik’s behavior, and whether there was some failure or negligence that caused this terrible incident.

By nature, man is constantly looking for balance between the oppressor and the oppressed, and this balance is created by impartiality, integrity and justice at the hour of judgment.

The Examples of Said Qazzaz

Iraqis remember the interior minister of the Iraqi Monarchy, Said al-Qazzaz, who said, “I know you will sentence me to death, but when I climb onto the gallows, I will see people standing beneath my feet who do not deserve to live.” Perhaps Iraqis do not remember all the Free Officers (from the Free Officers Movement), as well as the martyrs of the Dammajah massacre in Mosul in 1959, in the same way that they remember al-Qazzaz, who alone stood tall in front of the men of the state - men holding all the power and authority, and him completely powerless.

For the same reason, some of Saddam’s Iraqi enemies, a large number of the opponents of the dictator whose hands were stained with the blood of many, and even some of who were tortured within the prisons of his regime, expressed their resentment at what had happened. Their outrage was not out of sympathy for a dictator who destroyed Iraq and the Iraqis themselves. They resented that he was hanged just like al-Qazzaz wished to be hanged, and also because they know deep in their hearts that his trial did not meet the requirements of judicial proceedings, and was rather politicized from start to finish. He was also executed during Eid, even though this goes against the letter of the law.

The oppression that the Iraqi people were subjected to was lost due to the desire of Saddam Hussein’s enemies to get vengeance against him and through their blatant interference in the judicial authority... Justice has been lost and the judicial authority is now without its judicial independence.

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