December 30th, 2006 10:19 EST
Iraq puts former dictator to death
BAGHDAD — Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging today, according to a statement issued by the Government of Iraq.
“Executing the tyrant is a serious lesson to all despotic rulers who commit crimes against their peoples, and they have to know that oppressing and killing will never help them stay for a longer time in authority, and it will not lead them but to the black fate which has been faced by those who preceded them in violating human rights,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a message to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced Saddam and seven other former aides to death Nov. 5 for ordering the massacre of 148 men in Dujail, Iraq, in 1982. Acting on Saddam's orders, the Iraqi Security Force gunned down and tortured the villagers in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt against the former dictator. U.S. State Department officials told reporters on background before the trial began Oct. 19 that the Dujail incident wasn't the most egregious of atrocities of which Saddam was accused, just the first case ready to take to trial. Other atrocities included the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds, including chemical attacks on the village of Halabja; the brutal crushing of a Shiite revolt in southern Iraq in 1991; and repression of the Faylee Kurds, officials said. Rather than waiting for investigations on those and other cases to conclude, the Iraqis opted to move forward with the Dujail trial, officials said. Saddam interrupted the proceedings regularly, Baathist "dead-enders"
tried to intimidate members of the court and insurgents killed three defense lawyers in the course of the trial, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad noted when the verdict was announced Nov. 5.
In a written statement, Khalilzad called the verdict "an important milestone for Iraq" that demonstrates the Iraqi's commitment to the rule of law. "A former dictator feared by millions, who killed his own citizens without mercy or justice, who waged wars against neighboring countries, has been brought to trial in his own country - held accountable in a court of law with ordinary citizens bearing witness," he said of the verdict.
Now that Saddam is dead, Maliki said, the Iraqi Army and Police must rise to the new challenge of ensuring security and enforcing the laws of a free, democratic nation.
“The armed forces and the police in the new Iraq are no longer an instrument used by one person, a faction or a party to suppress the people,” Maliki said. “We are sure that the armed forces which enjoy the support of the government and the people will decisively confront those who want to destabilize security in Iraq.”The Appellate Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal rejected Saddam's appeal Dec. 26, upholding his conviction and clearing the way for his execution.
The Coalition force toppled Saddam's repressive regime in March 2003. U.S. forces captured Saddam, who was hiding in a "spider hole" near his hometown of Tikrit, in December 2003. The Iraqi government maintained legal custody of the former dictator, although Multi-National Force-Iraq officials had physical custody of him until before the execution, at the Iraqi government's request, defense officials said.
Iraq’s Prime Minister told the Iraqi people that Saddam’s death should serve as a new beginning for the nation.
“Let us end together this dark era in the history of Iraq and look forward to building Iraq.,” Maliki said. “The government of national unity of Iraq is determined to continue the reconstruction on all levels and open the door to all those who want to serve their country.”
(American Forces Press Service, Combined Press Information Center) In other developments throughout Iraq: