PHILADELPHIA - January 2 - Contending that an execution should not be enforced when questions of law and procedure remain unanswered, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international social justice organization and a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Quakers worldwide, today condemned the execution of Saddam Hussein.
International human rights groups have charged the trial process was deeply flawed. In addition, for an execution to be carried out under Iraq's constitution, the president and his deputies must ratify the decision. However the code that governs the court created specifically for Hussein's trial does not permit a change once the sentence is ratified by the appeals panel. Hussein's defense team contends that constitutional safeguards take precedence.
“Human rights are universal,” says Tonya McClary, national director of the American Friends Service Committee criminal justice/anti-death penalty program. “Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial and these principles must be upheld even for those accused of heinous crimes, such as those for which Saddam Hussein is charged, as well as those who have been victims.”
A thorough legal review of the verdict must be conducted and findings must be announced, the Service Committee maintains.
AFSC is acutely aware of the grave security situation currently prevailing in Iraq and recognizes fully the government’s responsibility to uphold the rule of law and ensure that those who commit murders and other crimes are brought to justice. In doing so, however, the Iraqi authorities must abide by their obligations under international law, which includes ensuring a fair trial.
Based on the Quaker belief that there is that of God in each person, the Service Committee consistently opposes the death penalty.
“The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” McClary adds. “Use of this most extreme penalty will provide no remedy for the grave human rights situation in Iraq and serves only to devalue further the right to life.”
AFSC urges religious leaders to speak out against this death sentence and call for an end to executions worldwide. We encourage pastors, rabbis, imams and faith community leaders throughout the United States to educate their members on the immorality of the death penalty.
We appeal to the U.S. government to join the call of other international leaders for an end to the death penalty and for judicial safeguards that ensure the rights of all defendants.
“AFSC believes the death penalty is never justified,” McClary states. “However, the taking of a life under questionable, unfair or unjust court proceedings is unconscionable.”