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Saddam's execution draws balance of relief, repugnance at use of capital punishment

Saddam's execution draws balance of relief, repugnance at use of capital punishment

The execution of Saddam Hussein brought a sense of satisfaction that he paid for his crimes, but the use of the death penalty was met with harsh criticism, particularly in Europe.
In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who as Italy's prime minister staunchly backed the U.S.-led war in Iraq with support and troops, called Hussein's hanging "a step backward in Iraq's difficult road toward full democracy" and criticized the move as a "political and historical" mistake.
"The civilization in the name of which my country decided to send Italian soldiers into Iraq envisioned overcoming the death penalty, even for a bloody dictator like Saddam," the Italian Conservative opposition leader said in a statement issued by his Forza Italia party.
While most said they agreed with the guilty verdict against Saddam, the use of the death penalty, which has been shunned across Europe, was greeted with criticism, albeit tempered by the nature of Saddam's reputation and crimes.
His sentiment about the use of capital punishment was evident from other major European powers.
In Britain, a key U.S. ally in the war in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Saddam had been "held to account for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people."
But at the same time, she condemned the death penalty _ noting that the "British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime."
The Vatican denounced the execution as "tragic." Officials in Chile, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Nicaragua all denounced the use of the death penalty. Many tempered their criticism with condemnation of Saddam's crimes, and hopes for a stable Iraq.
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her country "respects" Saddam's conviction, but added her voice to the protest against the use of the death penalty.
"On a day like this, my thoughts are above all with Saddam Hussein's many innocent victims and my wish for the Iraqi people is that they can follow a path in peace and without violence," Merkel said.
Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm called the execution "barbaric" and said in a radio interview that he would have preferred to see Saddam imprisoned for life.
The death penalty "should not have been applied in this case either _ even though there is no doubt about Saddam Hussein's guilt over serious violations against human rights," Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in Helsinki.
Russia _ whose president, Vladimir Putin, vocally opposed the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam _ expressed regret that international opposition to the execution was ignored.
"The political consequences of this step should have been taken into account," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in Moscow.
He warned that Saddam's death could worsen the discord and violence in Iraq.
"The country is being plunged into violence and is essentially on the edge of large-scale civil conflict," Kamynin said. "The execution of Saddam Hussein may lead to the further aggravation of the military-political atmosphere and an increase in ethnic and religious tension."
U.S. President George W. Bush said Saddam received "a fair trial _ the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime."
"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror," Bush said in a statement.
In Poland, a staunch Washington ally that sent a key combat contingent to Iraq, President Lech Kaczynski's spokesman said: "Justice has been meted out to a criminal who murdered thousands of people in Iraq.
"This should serve as a warning to all those who would like to follow in Saddam Hussein's footsteps," senior aide Aleksander Szczyglo said.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that he didn't believe Saddam's execution would solve Iraq's problems, saying that the country needed to shape its own destiny: "I don't know whether the sentence of Saddam Hussein was a sentence or whether it was vengeance."
The rights group Amnesty International said it welcomed the attempt to hold Saddam responsible for crimes but said his trial had not been fair.
"The execution appeared a foregone conclusion once the original verdict was pronounced, with the Appeals Court providing little more than a veneer of legitimacy for what was, in fact, a fundamentally flawed process," the group said in a statement.
The German government said dealing with crimes committed under an earlier regime is "an important contribution to reconciliation and a national dialogue in Iraq" but said it also opposed the death penalty.
In Paris, the Foreign Ministry said simply that it had "taken note" of Saddam's execution; France was a vocal opponent of the 2003 invasion.
The former Iraqi leader was hanged before dawn Saturday in Baghdad as Iraqis prepared for the festival of Eid al-Adha, one of the two most important holidays in Islam.
There was little official reaction from Arab leaders in the rest of the region.
Libya will mark a three-day period of national mourning, lowering flags to half staff and canceling Eid celebrations. In the West Bank and Gaza, Saddam's death was met with sadness, and in Bethlehem, a "house of condolences" _ decorated with Iraqi flags and pictures of the former dictator _ was organized as a place for people to mourn.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai appeared to criticize the timing of the execution, but said it was "the work of the Iraqi government."
"We wish to say that Eid is a day for happiness and reconciliation. It is not a day for revenge," Karzai told reporters.
In Australia, another U.S. ally in the Iraq war, Prime Minister John Howard said the execution was significant because Iraqis had given the brutal dictator a fair trial.
"I believe there is something quite heroic about a country that is going through the pain and the suffering that Iraq is going through, yet still extends due process to somebody who was a tyrant and brutal suppressor and murderer of his people," Howard told reporters.
"That is the mark of a country that is trying against fearful odds to embrace democracy," he said.
Indian officials worried the execution could trigger more sectarian violence.
"We hope that this unfortunate event will not affect the process of reconciliation, restoration of peace and normalcy in Iraq," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement.
Dozens were killed Saturday in car bombings in Iraq.
"Unfortunately in the first hours (after the execution), you see the consequences of the tension and violence, which were basically expected," Italian Premier Romano Prodi said.
In Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "The execution ... which can only be described as a sad event, is another poignant reminder of the violence that continues to grip Iraq. We hope that this event would not further exacerbate the security situation."
The government in the world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, said it hoped Saddam's execution "will not further separate conflicting parties in the effort toward a national reconciliation, which is a precondition in recovering Iraqi sovereignty."
Fauzan Al Anshori, from the militant group of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, said Bush, too, should stand trial.
"Given the crime blamed on Saddam, it is unfair if George Bush is not also put on an international tribunal," he said. "Saddam was executed for killings 148 people, Shiite Muslims, while Bush is responsible for the killing of about 600,000 Iraqis since the March 2003 invasion."


Updated : 2021-03-09 00:35 GMT+08:00