ROME (AFP) – Iraq’s former deputy premier Tareq Aziz will probably not appeal his death sentence as this would legitimise the court that handed down the verdict this week, one of his lawyers told AFP on Wednesday.
“We probably won’t,” Giovanni Di Stefano said in an interview when asked if the defence team would appeal, adding that he had appealed instead to the UN Human Rights Commissioner and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
“The current death sentence has been imposed by a court that is without a government. The Iraqi penal code requires that a sentence of death is confirmed by the president… but also by a member of the government,” he said.
Aziz, the long-time international face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, was sentenced to death by Iraq’s supreme criminal court on Tuesday after finding him guilty of “deliberate murder and crimes against humanity”.
Aziz has 30 days to appeal and the sentence needs to be confirmed by Iraq’s presidential council. Various international powers including the European Union have appealed to Iraq for the death sentence not to be carried out.
Aziz surrendered to US forces in April 2003, days after the fall of Baghdad.
“If I appeal the decision to the Iraqi court of cassation it means that there is a presumption in law that maybe I am accepting there is a government,” said Di Stefano, who said he was planning to travel to Baghdad on Sunday.
Iraq has not yet formed a government following March 7 elections.
Di Stefano said the Washington-based Inter-American Human Rights Commission had the power to stop Aziz from being handed over from US custody for execution. “We will have to see whether they dare use that power,” he added.
He also claimed that Aziz was far from the decision-making circles under Saddam Hussein’s regime and has been targeted because he is an “uncomfortable” figure who knows too much about Saddam’s deals with international powers.
Di Stefano is a highly controversial figure in legal circles who claimed a personal friendship with the late Serbian warlord Arkan, assassinated in 2000.
He has also said that he is a lawyer in Italy but does not appear in the justice ministry’s official register of Italian lawyers.