Saturday, December 29, 2007

Executing Democracy- A Year After Saddam's Execution

Cross posted from DSADP blog.

A tragedy occurred in Pakistan yesterday. Benazir Bhutto, the fearless ex-prime minister of Pakistan was assassinated by individuals who have since been linked to Al-Queda. Sadly, this occurred two days prior to the anniversary of yet another assassination.

Saddam Hussein was hanged on December 30, 2006. At the time, most individuals shied away from decrying his trial, appeals, and subsequent execution. However, our organization- DePaul Students Against the Death Penalty, was vocal in opposing his death sentence.

The following article was published in the DePaulia newspaper shortly after his execution.

Executing Democracy

By Elliot Slosar

A major setback occurred in our fight to abolish the death penalty. Saddam Hussein was hung this past weekend, during the holy time of Eid. His trial was a mockery of justice and his death was reminiscent of lynching that occurred during slavery. Taunted by spectators, videotaped for the world to see, Saddam plunged to his death.

Two minutes and thirty six seconds have depreciated the meaning of a human life. His neck twisted, then snapped, similar to that of a branch breaking off a pine tree. All of this captured not only by professional photographers and videographers, but also by one of the many witnesses.

The video can be found everywhere on the internet, you may even download it from Google and You Tube. Here are some of the responses that were posted on You Tube only minutes after the video had surfaced:

“Great video! Too bad he died too fast. Should of tortured him first!!” (Tiffanyrk1786).

Torture… Is being harassed moments before being hung not torture? Is having your death broadcast around the world not torture?

“Awesome video, I only wish there was a little more light. I also wish that executions would move this quickly in the US instead of us citizens paying for those condemned to sit in prison for many years before their demise” (IcemanQq).

Saddam’s attorneys had less than 13 days to review the trial transcripts and file their subsequent appeal. The record only became available to defense attorneys on November 22. According, to the tribunal’s statute, the defense had to file their appeals by December 5. This gave them less than two weeks to respond to the 300 page trial decision.

Although capital punishment cases are handled arbitrarily and capriciously within the United States, we still have some semblance of an appeals process. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 126 people have been exonerated from death row. On average, it takes 9.2 years between being sentence to death and exoneration. Therefore, it takes nearly 3,358 days in order to prove one’s innocence in the judicial system.

Saddam was executed in less than 30 days. Is that justice?

Tortured to the point of death, Hussein’s execution entertained portions of the world, while the majority watched in horror. Executions are not televised in the United States because they would outrage society. For example, Frank J. Coppola was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 10, 1982. During this execution, it took two 55-second jolts of electricity to successfully kill him. The second jolt produced a horrid odor and witnesses soon heard sounds of burning flesh. Shortly thereafter, Coppola’s head and leg caught on fire while smoke filled the death chamber from floor to ceiling (Death Penalty Information Center).

Although electrocutions are inherently painful, hangings are undoubtedly seen as more barbaric and inhumane. Despite this, the Iraqi tribunal supported by the United States government, recently decided to publicly hang their former leader.

The death penalty is a mechanism used by the American government to oppress the poor and eliminate minorities from society. Minorities are often given inadequate representation within their cases, prosecutors are typically politically motivated, and judges are frequently indifferent towards administering a fair trial. After witnessing Saddam’s trial, it is obvious that we have replicated our flawed judicial system within Iraq.

Instead of Saddam being tried by the International Court, as was the case with the Nuremberg Trials, he was instead forced to partake in a mockery of justice within his home land. Iraq didn’t even have an independent judicial system before U.S. occupation.

Iraqi prosecutors were zealous in their prosecution, and the judges, who were trained by the United States and Britain just months before trial, had already pre-determined Hussein’s sentence. After three defense attorneys were brutally killed, the chief judge having resigned from the case, the court ultimately decided that an execution was necessary.

The following five methods of execution are currently authorized in the United States: lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing Squad. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, five executions have been carried out by hanging or the firing squad.

In Iraq, the available methods of execution are unclear and undecided. Bakhtiar Amin, Iraq’s human rights minister states, "I personally hate to see anyone put to death…there is no humane way of doing it." At the conclusion of his trial, Saddam requested to be executed by firing squads. This was automatically refuted by the court, instead opting to slowly hang Saddam to his death. Hanging someone to death is the least humane way to take a human being’s life. Not only has this spurred more violence in an already chaotic Iraq, but it has undoubtedly created more anti-American sentiment oversees.

Saddam committed horrible acts of atrocity that oppressed a nation. Despite this, his execution has created an international debate. As one of the last industrialized nations to use capital punishment, President George W. Bush stated, "On Sunday, we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death … we congratulate the Iraqi people!" How could one find so much happiness in torturing and then exterminating another human being?

Opponents of Saddam’s execution claim his trial was consistently flawed. Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty Internationals Middle East and North Africa Program states that, "Every accused has a right to a fair trial, whatever the magnitude of the charge against them … In practice, it has been a shabby affair, marred by serious flaws that call into question the capacity of the tribunal, as currently established, to administer justice fairly, in conformity with international standards."

Others stand opposed to Saddam’s execution based upon religious beliefs. Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, said, "For me, punishing a crime with another crime, which is what killing for vindication is, would mean that we are still at the point of demanding an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." He continued, "Certainly, the situation in Iraq will not be resolved by this death sentence. Many Catholics, myself included, are against the death penalty as a matter of principle."

In the United States, opponents of Saddam’s execution are dismissed as radicals who support ruthless dictators. Those praising his execution won’t even listen to claims of an unfair trial or preexisting religious beliefs against the death penalty. As one of four industrialized countries with the death penalty, we have now brought our barbaric means of punishment to a nation that we undoubtedly failed to ‘democratize.’

Thirty five year-old Abu Sinan said, "This is an unprecedented feeling of happiness ... nothing matches it, no festival nor marriage nor birth matches it. The verdict says Saddam must pay the price for murdering tens of thousands of Iraqis."

What would the verdict say if George W. Bush was put on trial for signing 152 death warrants as Governor of Texas?

What would the verdict say if our President was put on trial for murdering 87,139 Iraqi civilians since the war started? (

What would the verdict say if Ariel Sharon was put on trial for murdering 3,020 Palestinians from 2000-2004? (

Killing one individual will not bring back innocent lives taken in war. All defendants should receive a fair trial, instead of a mock simulation. Saddam should have been sentenced to life in prison, not death. More importantly, the death penalty should be abolished, not expanded.

1 comment:

ExecutedToday said...

Given all that's happened in Iraq, before and since, Nouri al-Maliki could one day be in Saddam's place, just as Saddam once tried to hang him.

It's just a matter of continuing to execute people until the right one has been executed.