Iraq Needs to Move Forward
Mixed emotions have swept the globe since Saddam Hussein was found guilty and sentenced to death last Sunday, Nov. 5, by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal. Many of Iraq’s Shiites and Kurds took to the streets in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad to celebrate the sentence of their longtime oppressor. Meanwhile, several of Iraq’s Sunni minority groups have protested the sentence. Though guaranteed an automatic appeals process, confirmation of the sentence is widely believed to be inevitable. Upon completion of this appeals process, Hussein will be scheduled to hang within 30 days. As the emotions of Iraqi civilians resonate through the nation’s streets to mark the end of Hussein’s oppressive era, they also remind Iraq and its surrounding nations of the beginning of an uphill battle for stability.
After nine months and 39 sessions, the Iraqi High Tribunal handed down its guilty verdict to a defiant Hussein. After calling the United States-created tribunal a ‘mouthpiece of occupation and colonialism,’ Hussein vowed to take his death sentence with honor. Hussein’s conviction was in response to the 1982 murders in Dujail. After a failed assassination attempt against him, Hussein ordered the torture and murder of 148 people, the deportation of 400 and the burning of orchards across the town.
The Dujail murder case is only one of the dozens of cases being prepared against Hussein and his regime. The other cases charge genocide in the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds, in which 180,000 were reportedly killed.
The simple fact that Hussein was given the opportunity of a trial, rather than an immediate execution, stands as a milestone of democracy. The Iraqi people have afforded Hussein a level of justice that he never afforded to them. However, the tribunal also faces a great deal of international criticism and legitimacy issues. Many Iraqis and other international communities have condemned its heavy reliance on U.S. resources and expertise.
The tribunal faced an ‘unusual number of problems compared to other tribunals,’ said Miranda Sissons, head of the Iraq Program of the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice. The nine-month trial was tainted by the murder of three defense lawyers, the resignation of one chief justice and Hussein’s hunger strike, among other problems. The Bush administration has also been accused of tampering with the progress of the case, as the sentencing was announced just two days before the November midterm elections.
Despite the fact that these suspicions have yet to be confirmed by any evidence, the legitimacy of the tribunal’s decision is marred by the influence of the U.S. occupancy. Many Iraqis feel that they cannot move forward until their country’s future rests in Iraqi hands. ‘I am against Saddam being given the execution sentence,’ said Magdi Saad, an accountant in Cairo, Egypt, as reported by the Associated Press. ‘The verdict came from America.’
Violence continues to take the lives of Iraqi civilians. In light of this, Baghdad and two restive provinces were placed under open-ended curfews for vehicles and pedestrians after the announcement of Hussein’s sentence.
‘Eventually, this whole court and the ruling does not bother or concern me,’ said Tarek Hajj, a Lebanese salesman, as reported by AP. ‘As an Arab Muslim, what really worries me is how much it will impact Iraqis. I am sure that it will agitate Saddam’s supporters and the country’s security will be in complete chaos.’
It is important to recognize Iraq’s progress as it prepares to lay to rest a 30-year dictatorship that turned its soil into massive grave sites. It is also important to recognize the resilience of the Iraqi people and to understand the endless trauma that many experience on a daily basis.
‘Iraqis are feeling sad, not out of sympathy for the man, but for the loss of their country as they’ve known it,’ said political analyst Labib Kamhawi in Jordan, as reported by AP.
We’ve gone to war and we’ve got Hussein. It is now time to stop punishing and begin rebuilding.
Sarah Ghulamhussain is a first-year criminology, law and society major.