Iraqi exiles are concerned about post-execution backlash

By staff writers
December 30, 2006

Leaders of Iraq's various communities living in exile have expressed continuing concerns over the possibility of more sectarian violence following the execution of former dictator Saddam Hussein, says Journal Chretien in France.

Several hundred thousand Christians are reported to have fled during and before war broke out in Iraq. There are currently around 450,000 Christians still living in Iraq –which is significantly down from an estimated 750,000 three years ago, according to analysts.

Apparently fearing more violence in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, police have blocked the entrances to the town and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days, while elsewhere US and Iraqi forces stepped up patrols.

Mr Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Detroit-based Chaldean Federation of America, said his Christian humanitarian organization is against the taking of human life. Other evangelical Christians have said only God can judge over life and death. And Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said yesterday that the death penalty eliminates the possibility of change and repentance.

Mr Kassab added that the world must reflect on Saddam’s execution, "so [that] we never again relinquish our destiny to tyrants like him."

Since December 2003, when American forces discovered Saddam hiding in a bunker near his hometown, Iraqis said his execution was inevitable. An Iraqi special tribunal – established during the occupation, and therefore regarded by many as illegal under international law – condemned the former president to death on 5 November 2006.

The judgement was based on a specific case – namely, Saddam’s role in ordering the executions of 148 Shi’ite men and boys from the town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.

Saddam Hussein was still standing trial for the murders of some 180,000 Kurds during the al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s. The trial is to continue for his six co-defendants.

Imad Hamad, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, said the celebration surrounding Saddam’s death among many of his victimes was laced with uncertainty about the future.

"The joy would have been complete if we were to see the healthy Iraq, the united Iraq, the safe Iraq," Hamad told Associated Press. "Then everybody would be jumping up and down, celebrating."

The international agency Human Rights Watch says that the trial of Saddam Hussein failed to meet international standards of fairness and criticized the Iraqi government for actions that it said undermined the court’s independence. It said the court was unfamiliar with the law it was attempting to apply.

Despite heavy security, Iraq experienced more bloodshed on 30 December 2006, as a bomb planted on a minibus killed 31 people in a mostly Shi’ite town south of Baghdad. The blast occurred in Kufa, a town 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital. At least 58 people were wounded, Issa Mohammed, director of the morgue in the neighboring town of Najaf, reported.

Later in the day, at least 37 people died and 76 were injured in at least two blasts in the Hurriya district of Baghdad.

Lawmakers and members of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, have condemned the execution of Saddam, with one calling it "a political assassination" that "violated international laws". Libya has declared three days of national mourning. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia made neutral responses.

Most other governments in the region have remained completely silent because this is the first day of Eid al-Adha.

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