Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Hang Saddam

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Hang Saddam

Article excerpt

As we go to press, two prisoners are awaiting their fates in very different circumstances. Ian Huntley, found guilty of the double murder of the Soham schoolgirls, seems destined for 50 years' worth of DVDs and games of ping-pong in one of Her Majesty's jails. Saddam Hussein, on the other other hand, faces a public hanging preceded by a brief formality of a trial, the verdict of which the American President has already announced.

It is easy to envy the Iraqis what will be a moment of national jubilation in a country unused to that emotion. Having watched the grinding wheels of British justice in action, watched murderers go free on technicalities and seen taxpayers' money wasted on trials that end with the guilty man being incarcerated for less time than the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is all too tempting to wish for summary execution. Who, we catch ourselves asking, wants to give Saddam the chance to cook up a defence as preposterous as that of Ian Huntley? How many stomachs are more deserving of the cold army rations now disappearing down Saddam's gullet?

It seems that among those seduced to some extent by this view is Tony Blair. He knows that if Western values really do prevail in Iraq, in 30 years' time the likes of his wife will be doing a brisk trade in their human rights chambers. Yet in the meantime, he appears happy to allow summary justice to have its day. 'Of course this country remains opposed to the death penalty,' he said two days after Saddam's capture. 'But this is something that in the end has to be decided by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people.'

This is a feeble position for a man who made the case for war in Iraq with such passion. It is absurd to suggest that a victorious army should deny itself any say in what happens to a vanquished leader. Who argues that it should have been only for Germans to decide what went on at the Nuremberg trials? And what if an Iraqi tribunal, contrary to expectations, decided on the exile of Saddam to Afghanistan: would his fate still be none of our business?

It isn't so much 'this country' that is opposed to the death penalty; opinion polls rather suggest the opposite. It is Tony Blair himself. Not only has he opposed restoring the death penalty, he has incorporated into British law the European Convention on Human Rights which makes it impossible for a future government ever to restore it. Unless we have read him very wrongly, the Prime Minister has a deeply held conviction that it is wrong for the state to use the sanction of death. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.