Govt welcomes ‘justice’ for Saddam

The government has welcomed the decision to find Saddam Hussein guilty of crimes against humanity, even though it means he has been sentenced to death.

The former Iraqi dictator has been sentenced to death by hanging, and although he and his co-defendants have the right to appeal – this is not expected to be successful.

And despite its opposition to the death penalty, the government has welcomed this verdict.

“I welcome that Saddam Hussein and the other defendants have faced justice and have been held to account for their crimes,” foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said.

“Appalling crimes were committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. It is right that those accused of such crimes against the Iraqi people should face Iraqi justice.

“[The] verdicts and sentences by the Iraqi Higher Tribunal come at the end of a trial during which evidence has been offered and challenged in the full glare of media scrutiny.”

However, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “The conviction of Saddam Hussein will being relief to countless Iraqis whose lives have been blighted by the enormity of his behaviour.

“But it will not bring back the many thousands who perished while he ruled their country.

“His martyrdom can only add to the instability and unrest in Iraq. He should be detained for the rest of his natural life.”

Ms Beckett, questioned on Today this morning, said she regretted the decision to execute the former leader, but rejected claims that this might lead to his martyrdom.

“It is absolutely the case that we do not support the death penalty and never have…but this is a matter for the Iraqi court,” the foreign secretary said.

As to whether this would make him a martyr, she commented: “I suspect that people who would think he was a martyr already think so,” adding that it is unlikely anyone who recognised the extent of his crimes would change their opinion of him based on his sentence.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague supported the decision by a Baghdad court.

“The verdict and sentencing of Saddam are a matter for Iraqi law and the Iraqi people, but they deserve the support of the international community in ensuring that the decisions reached by the court are respected,” he said.