US and Britain welcome, Amnesty Condemns Death Sentences

LONDON (UK): Iraq war protagonists the United States and Britain Sunday led those welcoming the death sentence handed to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but other nations and groups were more guarded, voicing concerns over his trial.

Britain said Saddam had been “held to account” for his crimes after Iraq’s ex-president was sentenced to death by hanging for his role in ordering the deaths of 148 Shiite villagers in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad.

“Appalling crimes were committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. It is right that those accused of such crimes against the Iraqi people should face Iraqi justice,” said British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett in a statement.

The first reaction from the United States came from the country’s ambassador in Baghdad who said the verdicts against Saddam and his co-defendants marked an “important milestone” for Iraq.

“A former dictator feared by millions, who killed his own citizens without mercy or justice, who waged wars against neighboring countries, has been brought to trial in his own country — held accountable in a court of law with ordinary citizens bearing witness,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.

“Today is an important milestone for Iraq as the country takes another major step forward in the building of a free society based on the rule of law,” said a statement from Khalilzad.

“Although the Iraqis may face difficult days in the coming weeks, closing the book on Saddam and his regime is an opportunity to unite and build a better future,” he added.

Amnesty International condemned the sentences, describing the trial as a “shabby affair, marred by serious flaws”.

The London-based human rights group — which opposes capital punishment — said the trial should have helped the process of establishing justice and the rule of law in Iraq but was in fact “deeply flawed and unfair”.

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