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The Execution of Saddam Hussein and the Mistake of Formalities - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Even in the west, convicts who are sentenced to death are not executed on Christmas day because that day, just like any other religious holiday is a day of tolerance and mercy, or at least a day to forget. This is also the case regarding the Islamic festivals of Eid, when governments often officially pardon convicts, release prisoners early and show mercy to those who are worthy of such compassion. This is the custom among Muslims and others on religious holidays, refraining from killing convicts even if they have been convicted and are considered dangerous criminals such as Saddam Hussein who deserved more than that.

On the morning of the first day of Eid ul-Adha, millions of people woke up surprised to the news of the former Iraqi dictator’s execution and for the majority of them, it was loathsome news. It was completely incorrect to execute Saddam Hussein on that day; perhaps this is what Saddam himself may have wanted as he knew this would stir-up feelings amongst the majority.

What some Arabs and westerners do not take into consideration is the idea of formalities in dealing with difficult cases. Formalities in the Arab world are sometimes more important than human rights, in other words, if Saddam Hussein would have been executed without trial or after a rushed trial, it would have been more acceptable than slaughtering him on a day that is considered a day of mercy. It is the very day that Muslims commemorate God’s exemption of Ibrahim from sacrificing his son Ismail, thus remembering a day that became a symbol of forgiveness and mercy.

It may seem odd that formalities should be given such great importance, for example selecting a certain day and avoiding another [for execution]; however it is an important matter. Saddam loyalists have benefited from the mistakes in dealing with formalities. In this regard, the American forces were also wrong to bomb Najaf and Fallujah during the holy month of Ramadan. The timing was a costly mistake that enraged the public and weakened the position of government whilst the original objective was to demonstrate the power of the new government.

However, with the majority in agreement that the day [of execution] was wrong, the fact remains that Saddam Hussein deserved the death penalty. He had committed crimes against the Iraqi people and other nations in the region, more so than any other political criminal and this justifies the harshest of punishments. A man like Saddam Hussein does not deserve compassion as he would send innocent people to meet their deaths for the poorest of reasons and with no trial. These atrocities were unmatched by any other. His orders of death spared nobody, not even the young, the old or the innocent. The execution of Saddam Hussein will be a lesson for all rulers and callous murderers who think that they can get away with their crimes.

At least Saddam was granted a trial, of which many criminals were deprived. He was given the opportunity to object, bring witnesses to the stand, defend himself, attack the Iraqi government and accuse it of treason, attack the judge, the judicial system and his opponents. The execution of Saddam Hussein was the implementing of justice in its truest form; however it was carried out on the worst possible day.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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