It is not surprising that an Iraqi Court has sentenced the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, to death for ‘crimes against humanity’. Political observers had expected this to happen since the US government and a section of the present Iraqi elite have been determined to show the world that they are capable of eliminating Saddam. The Bush Administration will now try to exploit the Court verdict to mobilise support for the Republicans in the mid-term American Congressional and Senatorial Elections scheduled to be held on Tuesday 7 November 2006.
It was because there was an undisguised political motive behind the Saddam trial which expressed itself in blatant political interference in the judicial process that the trial was discredited right from the outset. Even human rights groups in the US and Britain such as Human Rights Watch andAmnesty International had from the beginning questioned various aspects of the trial, including the impartiality of the tribunal that handed down the verdict. It should not be forgotten that lawyers defending Saddam and his colleagues on trial had been assassinated and dubious witnesses were dragged to Court to bolster the prosecution’s case.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. Any objective evaluation of his political record will reveal that he had on a number of occasions ordered the mass murder of his political opponents and dissidents. What he did in Dujail for which he was sentenced on 5 November— the killing of 148 Shiite men— was ‘minor’ compared to his elimination of perhaps 5,000 Kurdish Iraqis in Halabja in March 1988 or his harsh suppression of thousands of Shiites in Basra and other parts of Southern Iraq in February 1991. Saddam deserved to be severely punished – though I remain an opponent of the death penalty.
While accepting Saddam’s culpability, the world has to ask a more pertinent question: is Saddam the only leader in recent times who is guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’?
Even if one confines oneself to the last five years, how can one exonerate the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush or the Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, for the massacre of tens of thousands of Iraqis arising from the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of that land since March 2003? Civil society groups from all over the world have put them and their accomplices on trial and found them guilty of gross crimes against humanity.
Wasn’t Ariel Sharon, then Prime Minister of Israel, also guilty of a monstrous crime against humanity for the cold blooded murder of scores of families in Jenin in Palestine in 2002? And what about the current Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who kills and maims on a daily basis defenceless men, women and children struggling to regain their homeland from the occupier? Wasn’t he also responsible for yet another terrible crime against humanity when his aggression against Lebanon in July-August 2006 led to the death of almost 1800 innocent civilians, one third of whom were children?
It is only too apparent that the power elites in Washington and Tel Aviv and their allies in different parts of the world are selective and biased when it comes to identifying and prosecuting criminals. But then again one should not expect criminals to admit their crimes – against humanity.