Cheating the Hangman’s Noose? Saddam Conviction Appealed

At the deadline, Saddam Hussein’s lawyers did the expected thing and filed the formal appeal of his conviction. But there may be a method behind the dragging out of the appeal, and of the trial itself. Iraqi law prohibits the execution of anyone 70 or older, which Saddam will be on April 28. Kommersant Moscow has a good summary of the status of the trials, with this clincher in the last paragraph,

Under Iraqi law, the death sentence is to be carried out within a month of its passing. That deadline will not be met in Saddam Hussein’s case. His trial on accusations of using chemical weapons against the Kurd in the early 1980s is still in progress and he has several more [trials] coming. Iraqi authorities have declared that they can hold those trials without Saddam. But if he is executed now, he will be considered convicted in absentia in the other trials. Nonetheless, the authorities, who have followed all the rules in the trying of Hussein (little as that is part of Iraqi court tradition), will most likely continue in the same vein and observe every formality, including an appeal and hearing on a pardon. The expectedly strong reaction brought on by the death sentence from the majority of foreign heads of state, including those of countries that were members of the anti-Saddam coalition, may lead the Iraqis to draw out the appeal and pardon hearings past April 28 of next year. After that date, it will be impossible to execute Hussein. Iraqi law prohibits the execution of persons age 70 or older [emphasis mine].

The entire article is worth skimming for a primer on exactly what Saddam was tried and convicted, the 1982 killing of 148 inhabitants, including children, in the village of Dujail, and the delaying tactics that occurred in the court room.

The appeal may last for quite some time as the WaPo reports on the appeal status

Attorneys for former president Saddam Hussein on Sunday formally appealed his death sentence for the killing of 148 Shiite men and boys from the town of Dujail in the 1980s, a spokesman for the Iraqi High Tribunal said.
The case will now go to a higher court, which can rule on it at any time. If the court upholds Hussein’s conviction, his execution, by hanging, must occur within 30 days, according to Iraqi law…. Under Iraqi law, death sentences are automatically appealed within 10 days. But defense lawyers must still file a formal appeal within 30 days of the verdict.
A recent report by New York-based Human Rights Watch concluded that Hussein’s trial was so seriously flawed that the verdict could be called into question.

There are no deadlines on the appeal process, but the Human Rights Watch conclusion implies the appeal could be a prolonged process. However, the Iraqi Congress reportedly could change the law allowing executions of those 70 and over (this really isn’t changing the what he was convicted of, just how penalties are carried out).

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


  1. LJD says:

    Coming soon:

    “If I Did Commit Atrocities, Here’s How it Happened”