Saddam Hussein Ordered Killing of 148, Including Children
Robert Worth has a breaking report in the NYT about documents presented at Saddam Hussein’s trial today directly implicating the former dictator in the murder of 148 people.
As Saddam Hussein watched quietly from the dock, prosecutors on Tuesday displayed what they said was his signature on orders of execution for 148 men and boys, some as young as 11, in what appeared to be the first evidence linking the former dictator to large-scale crimes since his trial began in October.
The presentation was a striking turnaround for a trial that had been widely dismissed as a farce, with the defendants and their lawyers alternately refusing to appear and delivering angry tirades in court. The new material and more orderly atmosphere also suggested that the trial — which has come under strong criticism by Iraqi officials and human rights groups — may yet fulfill American hopes for a credible public forum on the crimes of Mr. Hussein’s rule. But it remains unclear what standard of proof they are using in authenticating the evidence. The trial adjourned today until March 12 after a second session that focused on the documents.
An unaccustomed hush fell over the courtroom on Tuesday as the lead prosecutor, Jaafar al-Musawi, leafed through page after page — displayed on a screen — in which mass executions are discussed as calmly as purchase orders. Many bore the letterhead of Iraq’s feared intelligence service, the Mukhabarat. Others were scrawled out by hand.
One letter stated, “It was discovered that the execution of 10 juveniles was not carried out because their ages ranged from 11 to 17 years old. We recommend executing them in a secret manner in coordination with the management of the prison and the Mukhabarat.” An arrow runs from that sentence to the margin, where it is written by hand: “Yes. It is preferable that they are buried by the Mukhabarat.” The handwriting is Mr. Hussein’s, the prosecutor said, though he did not offer independent handwriting analysis or other proof to back his claim. The chief judge is the final arbiter of the documents’ authenticity, though he listens to both sides before making a decision.
Other letters showed that intelligence officials mistakenly printed a death certificate for a 14-year-old boy. When they discovered he was still alive, they had him brought to Baghdad and hanged, according to the letter, addressed to Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Mr. Hussein’s half brother and fellow defendant.
Mr. Hussein, who in previous sessions often burst out laughing or delivered lengthy tirades, said almost nothing on Tuesday. Dressed in a dark suit, he looked gaunt and subdued as he watched the documents, and never stood up. He said at one point, “I want to tell the media — there is no letter from me.” But his voice could scarcely be heard.
Richard Fernandez, who reproduces the documents at Belmont Club, observes,
The power of private individuals to move around information is pretty amazing. Reader G. sends facsimiles of the death warrants Saddam Hussein is accused of signing in Iraq. In his enclosing letter, Reader G. adds “the executions of 148 people had been carried out and that some of the named people were mistakenly released instead of being executed, and that other prisoners not on the list were executed by mistake!”
As it happens, Iraq the Model (who is unrelated to the reader) writes in his latest post about the same subject.
From two synoptic sources, we get complementary information of the same subject. Now here’s a link to a Reuters story describing the presentation of the very documents described above.
The Reuters story actually has far less detail than Iraq the Model, but it confirms the readers account about some prisoners being executed or released “by mistake”. Nowhere to be found in the Reuters report, however, is Iraq the Model’s report that about 48 convicts had died under torture before they could be executed, and that’s an historical mystery waiting to be solved.
While the political blogosphere will continue to mostly produce commentary and analysis, which I believe is quite worthwhile, the relative handful of sites that do original reporting are having a powerful influence on the way information is gathered and transmitted.