Iraqi Hangings Bring More Denunciations

By Joshua Partlow and Muhanned Saif Aldin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 15 -- By the time the corpses of Saddam Hussein's half brother and another top official, hanged before dawn Monday, arrived in the village of Auja for burial, the word had spread among the mourners: The head of Hussein's brother had been severed from his body.

Many of the people who had gathered considered the decapitation of Barzan Ibrahim to be a calculated insult, another act by the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to humiliate followers of the executed former president and all his fellow Sunni Arabs. A doctor inspected the remains to assess the government's explanation that the noose inadvertently took off the head after Ibrahim dropped through the trapdoor of the scaffold.

"We knew that he would be executed and would join a parade of heroes, but Maliki, why did you behead him?" asked Salam al-Tikriti, 41, a relative of Ibrahim. "Why did you insult his body? Are you still afraid of him even after he is dead? We will cut your heads the same way that you are cutting the heads of the heroes of Iraq."

In many parts of Iraq, the executions set off new waves of anger and celebration along sectarian lines, though Maliki's government had gone to great pains to prevent the type of chaotic spectacle that accompanied Hussein's hanging two weeks ago, when Shiite witnesses in the execution chamber taunted Hussein.

Shiites celebrated the new executions, while Sunni politicians vented. Alaa Makki, a Sunni legislator, said that justice was done but the manner of the execution was disturbing. "Everybody knows that when you hang people, rarely the head will be decapitated from the body," he said, criticizing what he called a "revenge on the body."

"It denotes that people are very reactive and very extremist and they want revenge," he said.

Hussein al-Falluji, another Sunni legislator, called the executions "illegitimate and illegal."

The hangings drew criticism from abroad as well. The Moroccan Human Rights Association said they were a "criminal political assassination masterminded by American imperialism."

A U.N. spokesman expressed regret that Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's request to spare the two men's lives was not granted. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, said after the hangings that he would back an Italian initiative for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment under U.N. auspices.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, visiting Egypt, said she believed the hangings of Hussein and the two others were mishandled and should have been carried out with "greater dignity."

Ibrahim, who ran Hussein's intelligence service, or Mukhabarat, and Awad Haman Bander, leader of Hussein's Revolutionary Court, were put to death at 3 a.m. Monday, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said. They had been sentenced to death for their role in the killings of 148 men and boys from the Shiite village of Dujail following an assassination attempt against Hussein in 1982.

Iraqi officials denied that the decapitation was intentional, saying that Ibrahim's neck had been unable to absorb the noose's force. Dabbagh described it as a "rare incident" in a hanging and said that the proceeding was marked by professionalism and restraint not shown during Hussein's execution.

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