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Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems

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Saddam Hussein, al-Dujail Trial, Iraqi High Criminal Court


Courts | Criminal Procedure | Law


Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti died at the hands of Iraqi officials at dawn on December 30, 2006, following a tumultuous fourteen month trial3 for crimes committed against the citizens of a relatively obscure Iraqi village known as al-Dujail.4 Maintaining his façade of disdain when the verdict and sentence were announced on November 5, 2006, Saddam entered the courtroom with an arrogant strut and refused to stand until the guards made him do so to hear the judge’s opinion.5 When Saddam interrupted the reading of the verdict, Judge Ra’ouf Rasheed Abdel Rahman turned down the volume of his microphone and spoke over him. Speaking on behalf of the five judge panel, Judge Ra’ouf sentenced Saddam to “death by hanging” for the crime of willfully murdering Iraqi citizens from the town of al-Dujail. Saddam railed, “God curse the enemies of the occupation.” He demanded that the Arab people “stand up” and proclaimed “death to the enemies of the nation.”6 An automatic appeal of the verdict was initiated and heard by the nine-judge Cassation Panel, which issued its opinion on December 26, 2006.7 Saddam’s

execution was carried out on the first day of the Sunni religious holiday ‘Eid al-Adha’8 despite a provision of Iraqi law that a death sentence “cannot be carried out on official holidays and special festivals connected with the religion of the condemned person.”9 The executioner’s rope tightened around his neck and interrupted him as he prayed the most sacred Islamic prayer: “[t]here is no god but Allah . . . .” The sectarian overtones of the poorly implemented execution were preserved on a grainy video apparently taken from an illicit cell phone.10 Despite the plea for dignity from a voice on the video that is heard to say “[p]lease no . . . this man is about to die,” some of those attending the execution taunted Hussein and gleefully celebrated his demise.11 The jarring images flashed around the world, lending an eerie air of dignity to the end of one of the cruelest tyrants of the twentieth century.

Following the trial, Saddam died as a convicted criminal whose crimes were documented in a 283 page judgment.12 The opinion is a thorough and organized catalogue of the factual record of evidence from the trial and the investigative file. The Trial Judgment carefully assesses the elements of each charged offense, along with the relevant mens rea demonstrated by the available evidence, and it applies the relevant domestic and international law to each and every charge against each of the eight defendants in detail.



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