The Problem with Saddam’s “The Executions Were Legal” Defense

The Problem with Saddam’s “The Executions Were Legal” Defense

Prosecutors began cross-examining Saddam today. During questioning, Saddam insisted that it was legal for him to authorize the execution of the 148 Dujail villagers, because they had been properly sentenced to death by the People’s Revolutionary Court:

In the current trial, Saddam and seven former members of his regime are charged in a crackdown against Shiites launched after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the town of Dujail. In the sweep that followed, 148 Shiites were killed and hundreds were imprisoned, some of them undergoing torture.

Chief prosecutor Moussa al-Jaafari asked Saddam about his approval for death sentences passed against the 148 by his Revolutionary Court, which prosecutors have argued gave the Shiites only a cursory trial.

“That is one of the duties of the president,” Saddam replied. “I had the right to question the judgment. But I was convinced the evidence that was presented was sufficient” to show their guilt in the assassination attempt.

As I have explained in more detail over at the Grotian Moment, there is a fatal flaw — literally — with Saddam’s defense: at the time of the attempt on his life, the maximum penalty for attempted assassination of the President of Iraq was life imprisonment. Paragraph 223 of the Iraqi Penal Code of 1969 prescribes death for murdering the President. Paragraph 31(1), however, expressly provides that the punishment for attempting a felony punishable by death is not death but life imprisonment.

In light of Paragraph 31(1), it is clear that Saddam did not have the authority to order the executions even if the villagers were involved in the assassination attempt. By signing the execution order, therefore, Saddam essentially admitted that he committed willful murder as that charge is defined by the Article 12(1)(A) of the IHT Statute.

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