Europe's reaction to Saddam's sentence

8th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

A few minutes after Saddam Hussein's sentence had been read out, the British Minister of foreign affairs, Margaret Becket gave her reaction.

A few minutes after Saddam Hussein's sentence had been read out, the British Minister of foreign affairs, Margaret Becket gave her reaction.

She welcomed the fact that Saddam and his fellow accused were being held responsible for their crimes. She did not comment on the death penalty. Her reaction perhaps underlined that Great Britain is America's most faithful ally

Other EU countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden said that they were happy that Saddam was being held responsible for his crimes, but they pointed out that they were against the death penalty.

France, never missing an opportunity to criticise the US, pointed out that they hoped this would not increase the tensions in Iraq.

The Spanish premier Zapatero, who pulled the Spanish troops out of Iraq on his election, reminded the world that the intervention in Iraq had been a terrible mistake.

Russia took an even more independent view (from the US), in a statement from the ministry of Foreign Affairs as reported by newspaper De Standaard, ” The trial of a citizen in any country in any position, remains a states internal business, and should be carried out without outside interference.”

 Moscow suggested that the sentence should be carried out just before the American congress vote.

“This idea is crazy”, was the reaction of Whitehouse spokesman Tony Snow.

Muslim reactions are mixed, some talked of “divine right” others about “political judgements”, and Syria added  “Any process that is carried out under foreign occupation is illegal.”

The newspaper Het Volk wrote, "American, French, British, Saudi and Russian world leaders should be ashamed of themselves."

Editor Joost Loncin, echoing the opinion of many yesterday, that the trial was a "conqueror's Justice" says, "They created the monster, they have provided him with arms and they praised him during all those years in which he committed the crimes he was tried for."

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht  believes that carrying out the death penalty on a 69-year-old would be "unethical" reported yesterday, 

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told the press that "justice has been done", although a spokesman for the Primeminister later said that Verhofstadt felt that it would have been better to have tried Saddam Hussein at the International Court of Justice in the Dutch capital, The Hague.

But what is sure is that the EU does not support the death penalty.

In a statement released shortly after the sentence was announced the EU Presidency said that "establishing the truth and ensuring accountability for the crimes committed during the past regime will assist in furthering national reconciliation and dialogue in Iraq in the future."

But they reminded the world of "the longstanding position of the EU against the death penalty.

"The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances and it should not be carried out in this case either."

However, today Saddam is back in court facing further charges in connection with a military campaign against the Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s, and as the BBC reports, "It is not clear if the Iraqi authorities will wait until the second trial is complete before they carry out the sentence in the first case."

It is worth noting that China, the country which allegedly executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined has recently taken a significant legislative step with regards to the death sentence.

The Chinese government has approved a law allowing only the country's top court to approve death sentences. Since the 1980's the lower courts have had the power to sentence people to death.

The change in the law, China's official state news agency, Xinhua,  is due to come into effect on 1 January 2007.

For information on EU activity and campaigns for the universal abolition of the Death

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