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The Frankfurt Globe|
Sentenced to Death: Tariq Aziz
By: Liz Turner November 2010
The death penalty is a serious topic around the world. It is the ultimate sentence to hand down for a crime, but there are times when it is the right sentence for a criminal act. In the case of Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein´s former Foreign Minister, the death sentence handed down has sparked an international debate.
Aziz rose to prominence at the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and during the 1991 Gulf War during which he was foreign minister. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, the only party that was allowed to exist was the Baath party. Hussein, who was a Sunni dictator, crushed all attempts to establish rival political organizations and carried out constant campaigns against all Islamic Parties.
For over 25 years, Tariq Aziz was the foreign face of Saddam Hussein’s regime. This regime was one that killed, tortured, mutilated and gassed millions of people. As Christopher Woods from The Pacer Times put it, “It was not an example of “following orders”, but rather tacitly giving the orders and watching them being carried out.”
It was announced earlier in the year that Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s former foreign minister, was sentenced to death for persecuting Shia Religious members under the former regime. Earlier in the year, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison because of his involvement with the killing of 42 merchants in 1992. On top of that, seven years was then added to the sentence for his prominent role in the displacement that forced Kurds from the northern parts of Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule. Aziz predicts that he will die in prison, citing his 74 year old life, health concerns and lengthy prison sentence. His health concerns include that he suffers from diabetes and is very susceptible to strokes.
In the same case, two other defendants were sentenced to death. The first person was former Interior Minister and Intelligence Chief Sadoun Shakir. The other was Abed Hamoud, a former Private Secretary to Saddam Hussein. Both men were involved with Saddam Hussein during his time of power.
Tariq Aziz was Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, which meant that his was in the spotlight and making prominent decisions during the time. Aziz was well known in foreign capitals and in the United Nations before Hussein’s downfall. Since he was so well known, authorities were on the lookout for him after all of the problems with Hussein. In April of 2003, Aziz surrendered and gave himself up to U.S. forces, who then handed him over to Iraqi prison authorities in July. In August of this year through a jailhouse interview, he accused U.S. President Barack Obama of ?MOD)eaving Iraq to wolves” because of the U.S. plans to withdraw.
Aziz has until the end of November to appeal before his execution is carried out. If his appeal is rejected, the execution will take place. The execution can only take place with the signing of the order of the Iraqi President, which will most likely happen. Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani and the two vice-presidents could overturn the death sentence if they choose to do so, but it looks like that will not happen.
Of course, there have been many conflicting views on the topic of Tariq Aziz’s death sentence. Probably one of the most surprising parties weighing in on the topic is the Catholic Church, coming from the Vatican. Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, has told Iraqi officials that he would travel to Iraq to ask them to spare Aziz’s life. Aziz was said to be the highest ranking Christian in Saddam Hussein’s regime. Specifically, he was a Chaldean Chrsitian, one of the few religious minorities to serve under Hussein’s Sunni government. The Vatican’s spokesman, Fredrico Lombardi, has said in a statement released recently that “The Catholic Church’s position on the death penalty is well known. It is hoped, therefore, that the sentence against Tariq Aziz will not be implemented.” Lombardi has also stated that “clemency for Aziz was needed precisely in order to favour reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after the great sufferings of the country has experienced.” Of course, any intervention carried out by the Vatican would be “through the diplomatic channels at its disposal.”
Two other groups have also brought their opinion to the table, to not carry out the execution of Tariq Aziz. Amnesty International has urged Iraq not to carry out the sentence and to come to other arrangements. The European Union has also voiced its opinion. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has been quoted by the Hindustan Times that Aziz’s execution would be “unacceptable and the EU will seek to commute his sentence.”
Of course, there are always people who feel differently about this sentence. Christopher Wood, who writes for The Pacer Times has said that Aziz is rightly sentenced with a death sentence. Wood has pointed out that age and faith should not “preclude him for committing these crimes against humanity.” The crimes against humanity that he is talking about are the mass killings under Hussein’s rule. Wood continues, “Saddam and many members of his regime have been executed or killed for their crimes after the 2003 invasion. Why shouldn’t Aziz?”
Russian’s lower house of parliament also has a say in the event. They think that the death penalty is “an attempt by the United States to distract the world from failure under the flag of democracy.” Aziz’s death sentence was made public just two days after the website WikiLeaks published 400,000 documents related to the U.S. military operation. Konstantin Kosachev told a Russian Newspaper, The Russian Lawmaker, that, “These documents reflect a very discharming picture of what the U.S. occupation troops did under the flag of democratization.” These documents showed that the U.S. played ignorant to the torturing by Iraqi security forces of their detainees, as well as multiple cases of the killings of civilians and insurgents who were trying to surrender to U.S. soldiers. Kosachev heads the Russian Lower House of Parliament’s committee in charge of International Affairs. Since the March 2003 U.S. Invasion in Iraq, up to 400,000 people have been killed and upwards of 2 million people have left the country.
The Russian Foreign Ministry believe that the death penalty was the result of external pressure. “The coin cadence of the time when the materials dishonouring the United States and its allies appeared with the announcement of Aziz’s death sentence is an attempt to draw the attention of the international community away from the information that was published on the internet.” Kosachev told the Russian Lawmaker. Communist lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov has been reported saying that Aziz’s death sentence was the result of him knowing “too much about the period preceding the U.S. interfering in Iraqi affairs.” The Russian Foreign Ministry was reported saying that Moscow was expecting the Iraqi Presidential Council to cancel the Iraqi court’s ruling on the death penalty of Aziz.
Tariq Aziz has people defending both sides. Some believe that he should be killed for the crimes that he has committed throughout his life. Some believe that the death sentence is wrong and that his sentence is more severe than it should be. Of course, it all comes down to what the Iraqi president and two vice-presidents decide to go through with. In the end, it is their decision, because he is under Iraqi governmental laws now. We will have to wait for the day when they announce to the world whether Tariq Aziz will either be executed for his crimes or live to see another day.