BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Lawyers for Saddam Hussein and two former aides sentenced to death lodged appeals on Sunday, the Iraqi chief prosecutor said, following a trial slammed by some human rights experts as unfair and flawed.
The defence had been given until Tuesday to submit their appeals. The case is already with the appeals court, which will decide whether the hangings should be carried out. Meanwhile, Saddam is still on a trial for genocide against Kurds. “Lawyers for Saddam Hussein and two others sentenced to death came to the court today and presented their appeals,” chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi told Reuters.
Saddam’s chief defence counsel, Khalil al-Dulaimi, confirmed they had been lodged but complained the U.S.-backed court had deliberately delayed in handing over the trial verdict, preventing his team from preparing a proper appeal. “It is a flagrant violation of our rights to deny us a proper defence,” he told Reuters in Amman. Dulaimi’s team has had a tempestuous relationship with the court, marked by repeated walkouts and sparring matches with the chief judge.
Saddam was sentenced to hang a month ago for crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shi’ites from the town of Dujail after he escaped assassination there in 1982. His half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander also received the death penalty for their part in the killing, torturing and deporting of hundreds of Dujailis.
The nine-judge Appellate Chamber, which could amend both the verdict and the sentence, has unlimited time to make a ruling, but if the appeal fails, then Iraqi High Tribunal rules say the execution must follow a final decision within 30 days.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a member of the Shi’ite majority persecuted under Saddam’s Sunni-minority rule, has said he wants the execution carried out this year. Legal experts, however, have said appeals could yet take months and there is ambiguity about what constitutes the “final decision”.
The tribunal has still to make public the reasoning for the Nov. 5 death sentences, although it has promised to publish them on its Web site. The lengthy ruling is eagerly awaited by international jurists keen to assess how the court performed. But in a comprehensive report last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned the verdict as unsound, saying the court had been guilty of so many shortcomings that a fair trial had been impossible.
It said the court lacked the expertise for such a complex trial, had failed to give the defence advance notice of key documents, while statements by government officials had undermined its independence and perceived impartiality.
U.N. human rights experts also identified “serious procedural shortcomings” and called on Iraq not to carry out the death sentences. They also said Saddam was not given enough time to prepare his defence and had restricted access to his lawyers.