Saddam ‘must be captured alive’

A leading human rights group has called on the US to state its intention not to kill Saddam Hussein, if he is found.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, has called for the former Iraqi leader to be captured alive in order that he can stand trial.

Mr. Roth recently wrote to the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, calling for the administration to try Saddam for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity before an “independent and impartial tribunal”.

The letter follows reports that Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, told journalists that US forces did not want to take Saddam Hussein alive, and that senior US officials – including Mr. Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney – have allegedly been discussing whether it might be preferable to kill Saddam Hussein rather than capture him alive.

Mr. Roth commented: “Putting Saddam Hussein on trial will be complicated, but it has to be done. You don’t build respect for the rule of law by choosing to kill someone, no matter how heinous their crimes, because it’s the easier thing to do.”

He also pointed out that killing the leader could amount to “a green light for Iraqis to take justice into their own hands”, and that it would miss the opportunity to expose the true extent of his atrocities in a court and to hold him accountable to the Iraqi people.

Human Rights Watch has also claimed said that any decision to kill Saddam Hussein as an alternative to capturing him alive might violate international humanitarian law.

The US-led coalition has already tried to kill Saddam Hussein, however, most notably at the start of the conflict in Iraq back in March when they shelled a compound where he was believed to be staying.

And during an attempt on the dictator’s life last month, his two sons Uday and Qusay were killed when a palace in Mosul came under intensive gunfire from American troops.

But following that attack, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage told American news station CNN that the military was keen to capture the ousted leader alive, although he would be killed if he posed a risk to the safety of the soldiers that are tracking him down.

The US military authorities are offering a $25m reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein.