Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam: Should the Pictures Have Been Shown?

All the newspapers have one story today - unsurprisingly it is the hanging of Saddam Hussein. On the News 24 paper review last night I had a disagreement with my fellow studio guest Kate Bevan (from the FT) who clearly thought the media shouldn't have shown the pictures. My view is that it is important to show them, particualrly in Iraq, where some people won't actually believe he is dead until they see physical evidence of it. Remember the Ceaucescus? Their execution was filmed for one reason - to convince Romanians that he had gone.

We also had a debate about whether it was right for him to be given the death penalty. Kate naturally thought it was barbaric. My view is that it frankly hasn't got anything to do with us. He was sentenced to death under the Iraqi legal system without, so far as anyone can tell, outside interference. My only slight discomfort at the fact that he has been hanged came when I was listening to a Radio 5 Live discussion. They had a Kurdish lady on, who said that she and her people felt cheated. While he had been hanged for his role in killing 182 people following a failed assassination attempt, he had not yet been put on trial for his role in killing hundreds of thousands of Kurds. Now he never would be. I must admit that she has a very good point. The end result would have been the same, but the Kurdish people would have felt that their own case had been heard properly. Now, it may never be.

COMING LATER: My predictions for 2007.


Voyager said...

Saddam was always going to be executed - he was just fortunate to get a trial.

I find the fact that executioners could praise Mukti al-Sadr very disturbing, or that private video could be shot. This suggests a State not in control of even an execution.

Every one of those executioners should have been strip-searched before an after - and only ONE official video-film be available.

There is in archives a film of the July 1944 Coup Plotters being strangulated on piano-wire from meat hooks at Ploetzensee Gaol in Berlin. This video is never shown on British TV because a) people are squeamish and b) death should not be voyeuristic.

I do not watch TV News to see RTA victims being coffined nor do I see the zinc casket being carried from the scene of a murder as on German TV; I do not see the emptying of graves as in German cemeteries; nor do we have public executions here since 1868.

I just think there should be some dignity in death - for everyone

Anonymous said...

The Ten Commandments-- Thou Shalt not Kill and Thou Shalt Not Fornicate.
As a Homosexual it is obvious that you homosexuals do not abide with the law of Moses.g

Iain Dale said...

Disgusted Tory, you have given me my biggest laugh in weeks.

Anonymous said...

Saddam was hanged 'without outside interference'? In the sense that Iraqis hanged him you are right (even if they were shouting praises to Moqtada al-Sadr, and taunting the condemned).

Lets be serious though, the trial (though he was lucky to get one), was a farce. It ended very early before many of his other crimes could be looked at properly, his defence lawyers were intimidated or murdered and the judge was changed mid-trial. On top of that there was the happy coincidence of the guilty verdict coming right before the US mid-terms, elections that the Republicans were likely to lose badly.

Outside interference? I'd say so.

Anonymous said...

I know I shouldn't take disgusted tory's comments to be more than a trollish interjection but it's not "Thou shalt not kill" but "thou shalt not murder / unlawfully kill"
Otherwise of course most of the laws/commandments on stoning sinners would be against the 6th Commandment...

Anonymous said...

This is mob justice with the veneer of due process. There is no public interest in displaying the execution. Those who think so are little better than the baying mobs who used to follow the cart containing the condemned to the "hanging tree" at Tyburn.

I am not in favour of the death penalty. To my mind we are repeating the crime for which we have condemned. Even with monsters like Saddam. Jailing someone for life - and I mean life - is a tough but humane punishment. We are supposed to be civilised.

Anonymous said...

Disgusted tory;

A person might ask what Iain had to do with the execution of Saddam, or in your bigotry towards homosexuals are you saying that all the worlds problems stem from their sexual orientation?

As for the Ten Commandments, would you be prepared to stand before your god and swear you have yet to break a single one of them?

To simply attack a person’s point of view because of their sexuality is small minded.

As for the execution of Saddam the consequences of this can be predicted. The supporters of the Bathist party have managed to keep most of their arms and ammunition, this is likely to now be used in revenge for the death of their leader.

There are many view point as to the possible responses to Saddam's death, listening to the one sided view of the MSM gives us only half the story. Yesterday Sky News stated that there had been fewer deaths (around 40) per day since saddam had been removed from power.

Simply reading some of the blogs from Iraq tells us a different story.

I do support the death penalty in some circumstances, but the conduct throughout Saddam’s trial does not give the impression of things being done fairly.

For such a high profile trial we were allowed such limited access to proceedings that a lot of questions remain unanswered.

If we take the OJ Simpson trial as an example of media coverage of a high profile trial, and compare the two. Then we must ask what did the authorities have to hide? And if there was so much to hide can we assume that Saddam received the trial that the democracy we here so much about was duty bound to give him.

Anonymous said...

Iain - it appears as though the festive spirit hasn't reached everyone doesn't it.

Better watch out for Moses striking you down for your dastardly deeds.

Good grief!

Voyager said...

The Ten Commandments-- Thou Shalt not Kill

Thou shalt do no MURDER is the text

Anonymous said...

Better watch out for Moses striking you down for your dastardly deeds.

Misunderstanding of the role of Moshe................suggest you go back to your golden calf

Anonymous said...

I agree entirely with the druid. Moreover, it isn't necessary to see the execution of someone to believe they are really dead. Surely just an excuse.

Anonymous said...

it's important to stress saddam was only convicted of 148 deaths. his crimes were committed far and wide, and included the murder of british citizens. he was not tried for anything else. if you are going to put a dictator on trial, and preach about how wonderfully just the trial is then make it so like nuremberg was. instead we had some poorly conducted farce with some of our leaders lining up to praise iraqi "justice". either do it properly, or take him out and shoot him romanian style. there should be no inbetween.

Anonymous said...


'Iraqi legal system' - what is that? This 'system' was a) imposed by outsiders and b) actually ignored in the process of this case.

As to whether this judicial killing should have been shown, well that depends to some extent of one's sensibilities, I suppose. Frankly I found the whole ghastly spectacle grotesque and entirely revolting. Watching anyone's execution in cold blood diminishes us all. In the end I could not bring myself to watch it, nor to pick up today's newspapers with their lurid front pages.

Had Saddam been tried in the International Court in the Hague is is doubtful that he would have been hanged - and it is conceivable that some evidence would have emerged as to America's direct involvement in his rise to power. As it is, his death may be viewed by some as a convenient political solution.

However, the daily and escalating slaughter of Iraqis continues unabated.

Anonymous said...

A mean and grubby little killing; without skill, compassion or dignity. Had a modern Pierrepoint carried out the act I would certainly argue against the showing of the video. As it is, it exposes the shoddy, gimcrack , bestial factionalism that characterises Iraq under US political control.

And food already for the conspiracy theorists out there; with no executions possible during Eid, would leaving him alive for the Kurdish trial have risked exposure of UK / French / US assistance in Iraq's chemical weapons programme?

[X-files tune]And although accounts say he had his hands tied firmly behind his back the 'swinging man shadow' pic clearly shows a free arm and hand ...

Already elsewhere on the net there is speculation that the clumsy US fixed-drop hanging actually pulled his head off and the 'shadow' and 'shroud' pics are clumsy attempts to limit the damage.[/X-files tune]

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this Iain - I think it was right to film the execution. Also, I'm sick fed up with the bleeding hearts bleating about 'uncivilised' and 'barbaric' when mentioning the death sentence. Just think of the ENORMITY of what he was responsible for, and perhaps we can be grateful that he wasn't drawn and quartered as well!

P.S. Is it civilised to bomb the hell out of a country and its citizens just for political and strategic reasons?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote- {On top of that there was the happy coincidence of the guilty verdict coming right before the US mid-terms, elections that the Republicans were likely to lose badly.}

Quit the the conspiracy theorising or at least make them plausible, why on earth would the Republicans wish to remind voters of Iraq right before the election?

The pictures should be available so that people who doubt that he is dead can view them if they wish, but I see no reason for British newspapers and television to show them and it seems distasteful to do so.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I think anyone convicted of first degree murder should be executed.

Anonymous said...

I found this long drawn out trial and the circus surrounding his execution rather sickening. And I speak as a staunch defender of the death penalty. But justice should be swift.

He should have been shot in the back of the head when he was found hiding in that sceptic tank and the story should have been that he tried to escape. They could have shown a photograph of the corpse and the back of his head blown off to convince people he was dead.

There would have been closure and things would be on a more even keel now.

Anonymous said...

Looked like a bunch of gangsters seeing off one of their own for crossing them. (and that was before the even nastier bootleg versions came out).
The sum of all our efforts, the new Iraq democracy in action.
Just a nasty wee festival of revenge, another stream of hate to add to the flood engulfing the region.

If anyone has any answers to the whole mess please tell the politicians.

Anonymous said...

I should have added that there was nothing unique about Saddam. Since he committed his crimes against humanity we have seen genocide in Europe thanks to the Serbs whose depravity at Srebrenica was on a par with the worse excesses of the Nazis, and in Rwanda an even more terrible genocide. I dread to think about what is happening in Sudan. For some reason I cannot see many in the West calling for the death penalty in these cases....

Saddam's show trial and mob justice execution are not due process in a meaningful sense. Instead it has merely created a martyr whose death will further fuel the spiralling levels of violence, while denying many of his surviving victims their day in court. The death penalty might have satisfied some atavistic impulse for revenge but has done nothing to further justice.

If we are to break the cycle of violence and vengeance in fractured societies/nations then a system of impartial and effective justice has to be operated by the international community that ends impunity for those that commit these terrible crimes. The ad hoc tribunals and the International Criminal Court are not perfect, but they are at least a start. The kangaroo courts of Iraq are not.

Anonymous said...

Let's get real for a moment shall we?

Saddam's death warrant was effectively signed the moment someone made the decision to change the management of Baghdad Inc. The rest (means, timing, backdrop of legality, etc) was simply a matter of detail.

Anyone, especially those in the NuLabour Apparat, who are now bleating about cruelty etc, are either deluded or hypocritical.

Those who set themselves up to rule others are rightly held to higher and harsher standards than the rest of us. Something I suspect Slime Ball Blair and the rest of his crooked cronies are beginning, uncomfortably, to realise.

Anonymous said...

The set up and conduct of this trial has done more to promote insurgency in Iraq than almost everything else combined.

Sadam was touted as the leader of the Sunni muslims by the US led court. His trial was for the murder of 148 shia Muslims, his death warrant was signed by the US influenced shia Prime minister.

How can anyone think that the troubles will be eased by his death?

Surely the Sunni muslims will see his execution as revenge rather than justice.

Anonymous said...

The execution of Saddam Hussein predictably will polarise Iraqis. Those who suffered the most under his brutal rule, notably the Shia and Kurdish communities, would assert that the punishment entirely fits his crimes. In this, citizens in Kuwait and Iran who also endured terrible losses at his hands would join them. I suspect the Sunni minority is more inclined to view the event as a political rather than a judicial development. It may serve to add to their resentment that they no longer exercise the influence in Iraq that they did when the Baathists held sway.

Yet even here, few would deny that Saddam was responsible for the deeds of which he was accused — ordering the deaths of 148 Shia in the village of Dujail in 1982 to avenge an alleged assassination scheme against him. The ousted dictator scarcely contested the facts of the case asserting instead the l’etat c’est moi defence that anything he perceived to be a threat to him personally as head of state was an attack on the country itself and entitled to be treated with whatever retribution that he deemed fit to deliver. His guilt over these atrocities cannot be disputed.

It was emphatically not a show trial or a kangaroo court experience. Evidence was carefully assembled and, while the process had inevitable imperfections, Saddam and the other seven men in the dock had the opportunity to rebut what was placed in front of them. The sentences awarded carefully distinguished between the roles played by the defendants 24 years ago (and one of the accused was acquitted).

It has been suggested by some commentators around the world that executing Saddam was morally wrong, let alone videoing it. I agree with Iain that it was in all the circumstances justified to record the proceedings. Execution by hanging is simply barbaric. But let's face facts. The UK and US governments have together killed many more Iraqis than Saddam ever did. Of course they can totally justify their actions to themselves due to the amount of oil Iraq has. The only reason Saddam has been removed is because the so-called coalition governments were worried they were losing control of him and therefore potentially access to the oil on their terms (favourable massive profit making levels). However, I do realise I am deluded about this because the totally neutral press and media hardly care to mention the oil.

I have to say as someone who upholds the rule of law; it is evident that Saddam's trial was conducted under current Iraqi law, which includes a possible death sentence. The judges reached this conclusion in respect of Saddam Hussein. Saddam’s appeal was rejected; he has now been executed. In the circumstances, it is surely not for those living elsewhere, to insist that the Iraqi authorities are wrong to apply their own laws.

As someone who is totally opposed to the wholescale damage to UK laws, sovereignty and traditions by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in the EU, I would uphold the right of Iraq to deal with offenders within its own laws. Saddam was given far more justice, fairness and objectivity than he ever gave to his countless victims.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I don't think even the film of Saddam's execution will persuade some Arabs that he is indeed dead. Soon they will be saying that the execution was faked, an actor was used, it's all an American plot, etc. etc. Some people are beyond rational persuasion.

neil craig said...

I think you are right that tactically it was wise to show the film to prove it to Iraqis.

I don't think his "fortune" in getting a "trial" should be taken seriously. He was always going to be killed & the trial was always a charade. I don't think the "trial" was done to prove anything to Iraqis but for the folks back home.

The loser here is the concept of the rule of law which has quite obviously been perverted, as it was in the Milosevic "trial" & murder. So long as the war criminals on our side go unpunished the world is a more dangerous place.

Anonymous said...

verity said...
He should have been shot in the back of the head ....... They could have shown a photograph of the corpse and the back of his head blown off to convince people he was dead.
3:56 PM

That would of started a new conspiracy theory. A bullet in the back of the head would take the front of the head off; assuming that the bullet is big enough.

Anonymous said...

browning - What a weird nit to pick! OK, then, he should have been shot in the back. The story should have been that he was shot trying to escape and there was no other way to detain him.

Anonymous said...

Verity: what is a sceptic tank? Or did you mean septic tank.

Anonymous said...

Show trial? This is what Human Rights Watch concluded:

"After 12 months’ observation of the Dujail trial, and dozens of interviews with key actors on all sides, Human Rights Watch has documented serious procedural and substantive flaws in the trial which undermine the soundness of the verdict. In addition, Human Rights Watch’s research shows that the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) is an institution that is struggling to maintain its independence under intense political pressure, and that has not been able to perform basic administrative tasks necessary to conduct a fair and effective trial. The credibility of the institution’s capacity to conduct fair, effective and independent trials is doubtful."

Frankly given the mess that Iraq is I be amazed if any courts function properly there. After all the place is racked by a civil war whether we want to call it that or not.

It would have been far better to try the monster at the Hague and then if necessary exile somewhere like St Helena a la Napoleon where he could rot away. Mind you we might to send President for Life Blair there in due course...

Anonymous said...

Anon 6.16pm

A sceptic tank is a heavily armoured tracked vehicle proceeding in an uncertain manner.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:16 31/12/06 - Well spotted!

Anonymous said...

I have posted ab out this on my blog:

I do not believe the British television media should have shown the pictures they did. They did not add to the story, merely sensationalised it.

Anonymous said...

Piss off, Martin. This is not a forum for your advertisement.

Anonymous said...

He got as fair a trial as currently possible in Iraq. It might have been procedurally imperfect but so what? It was more than good enough and much better than he gave to his victims.

Anonymous said...

What would the big networks have paid for the coverage rights. His death could have been a primetime earning contributor to the reconstruction of Iraq.

A squandered opportunity seized-upon by free-marketeers with mobile camera phones.