Saturday, August 20, 2005

Saddam and execution

It is being argued by Iraqis (link) that Saddam aides should not be executed.

After WW2, Churchill wanted the Nazi leaders to be executed without trial. Roosevelt insisted they be given speedy, but fair trials, presided over by Robert Jackson, who went on to become an ICJ judge. This insistence was based upon the idea that the victors must be seen to be dispensing fair justice and not summary executions.

Whether these trials were indeed fair is now irrelevant. However, executing the Nazi leaders was not necessarily the best example to set. The need for retribution, both emotional and political, can be perfectly understood. That does not mean execution is the answer. In some ways, I imagine the execution of the Nazis provided a bit of closure for all.

We are moving away from the acceptability of execution. Hypothetically, if it were just about any other country, and not the US who invaded Iraq, I doubt very much whether there would be provision for the death penalty in the new Iraqi Constitution. Surely, to provide some legitimacy for the new government, and to distance itself from the awful practices of the previous regime, the Iraqi government would be better advised to hold back from executing willy-nilly the leaders of Saddam’s regime.

Yes, they engaged in abhorrent behaviour. Does that mean we should descend to their level and execute them too? Unfortunately, I can’t see this view gaining too much traction in the domestic sphere, or for that matter in the international community. People need Saddam to be executed, for political and emotional reasons, too badly for him not to be.

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