No tears for Saddam, but trial and death penalty should be criticised

30 December 2006

No tears for Saddam, but trial and death penalty should be criticised

“The hanging of Saddam Hussein demonstrates that Iraq has still a long way to go,” concludes SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel. “There'll be no tears shed for the death of this brutal dictator, of course, but I am convinced that a life sentence is better, as much in Iraq as anywhere else. Civilised countries don't hang people. Primitive dictatorships do.”

Saddam Hussein was condemned to death and executed for ordering the massacre of 148 Iraqis following an attempt on his life. “I find it deplorable that Saddam has not had to take any responsibility for all the rest of his victims and their families, for example the thousands of Kurdish deaths caused by the gas attack on Halabja in 1988 and the 180,000 deaths in the Anfal campaign," said Mr Van Bommel. "The trial proceedings against Saddam were nothing more than a rushed legal formality serving political ends."

That the death penalty was carried out on the day of the Muslim festival of sacrifice was, Van Bommel added, inadvisable. “Together with Eid this is the most important feast day for Muslims. Many will see it as shocking that he was hanged on such a day. Moreover this will increase Saddam's martyrdom in the eyes of his followers."

Van Bommel would have preferred to have the dictator tried and condemned by an international tribunal on Iraq. “He would then have had to answer for many more crimes. I think that would have been better for the Iraqi people in their attempts to come to terms with what has happened in their country. Support for the final verdict would have been greater and he would have received a life sentence instead of the death penalty. Civilised countries have abolished the death penalty. I hope that Iraq will soon also get rid of this barbaric punishment. This would represent an important step forward for the country. Carrying out of executions should be condemned without exception. The fact that Jan-Peter Balkenende and Ben Bot, our country's premier and its foreign minister, say that they understand why Saddam died on the gallows is shameful. You should not be making understanding remarks when expressing a rejection in principle of the death penalty."

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