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Iraq: Death sentence for former Vice President condemned

Amnesty International today condemned the death sentence imposed on former Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadhan as a denial of true justice to the victims of Saddam Hussain's rule.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There has been a sharp rise in the use of the death penalty in Iraq since its reintroduction in August 2004. In 2006 at least 65 people were executed, many of them after unfair trials.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said:

“By imposing the death sentence, the SICT has simply bowed to the demand of an Appeals Chamber which seems motivated more by vengeance than by any concern for justice and fair trial.

“The entire appeal process was rushed and appears to have been little more than a rubber stamp, intended to provide a veneer of legitimacy to what was clearly a politically-motivated outcome.

"We call on Iraq’s President and Prime Minister to act immediately to prevent Ramadhan’s execution and urge world leaders - including US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair - to intervene.”

Taha Yassin Ramadhan was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) on 5 November 2006 at the end of the al-Dujail trial, in which he was accused together with Saddam Hussain and six others in connection with the killing of 148 people from al-Dujail, a largely Shi’a village, following a failed assassination attempt against Saddam Hussain in 1982. Under the law establishing the SICT, executions are to be carried out within 30 days of having been confirmed by the court.

Three of the accused, including Saddam Hussain, his half-brother and former head of the Iraqi intelligence service (Mukhabarat), Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and ‘Awad Hamad al-Bandar, former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court, were sentenced to death. Three other accused received prison sentences, while one was acquitted and released.

The Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber upheld all these sentences on 26 December 2006, and Saddam Hussain was executed four days later. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and ‘Awad Hamad al-Bandar were executed on 15 January. The Appeals Chamber expressed dissatisfaction, however, with the life sentence imposed on Ramadhan, describing it as too lenient, and sent his case back to the trial court for it to be increased to death.

Amnesty International believes Saddam Hussain and his co-accused, including Taha Yassin Ramadhan, should have received a fair trial despite the magnitude of the charges against them.

The organisation has condemned the overall judicial process as a mockery of justice, making it now more difficult to establish the rule of law and justice in Iraq after the decades of tyranny.

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