Saddam Death Sentence Upheld; What Now?

The Iraqi High Tribunal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam Hussein's death sentence, and recommended that the former dictator be hanged within 30 days. Madeleine Brand speaks with Dr. Mowaffak al Rubaie National Security Adviser to Iraq's Prime Minister.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

But first, the execution of Saddam Hussein could happen any day now. Yesterday, an appeals court in Baghdad ruled Saddam must be hanged within 30 days. This follows his conviction last month for crimes against humanity.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he wants the execution carried out before the end of the year. That is Sunday.

Iraq's National Security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, joins me now from Baghdad. Welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. MOWAFFAQ AL-RUBAIE (National Security Adviser, Iraq): Thank you very much for having me, Madeleine.

BRAND: Well, now, there is some disagreement over whether Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, needs to ratify the court's decision. And he has said he is an opponent of the death penalty, would never sign a death sentence. Has that issue been resolved?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: There was no issue on that front because this is a specialist court, and it has its own a law and regulation. And according to the regulation of this court, the Presidential Council does not need to ratify the sentence.

BRAND: So it will be carried out then?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: It will be carried out and I think is - see we're not talking about retribution and revenge. We're talking about implementing justice and the psychological healing for our severely traumatized community here and society. I believe it's going to be a day we will turn and we'll forget about.

BRAND: Will this be a public hanging?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: No. It will be in private. And I think we should respect his right. And I don't think he wanted a public hanging. And there's nothing called in the Iraqi law, the public hanging.

BRAND: Mr. al-Rubaie, an Iraqi Web site has published a farewell letter from Saddam where he said he was ready to sacrifice himself for Iraq. He used that word sacrifice. Are you afraid his supporters will turn him into a martyr?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: I don't think he is, sort of, icon if you like for a particular community. I think he might be an icon for the criminals and those who wanted to regain through power by force and by gun. Otherwise, the Iraqi people wanted him to go as soon as possible, and to consider him part of the past.

BRAND: What do you think his execution will mean for Iraqis? Once he is executed, what do you think the reaction will be in Iraq?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: I think the reaction is going to be, of course, the majority of Iraqis are going to rejoice this and they're going to be a really, really happy.

You know, we invested heavily in treasure and blood and tear and sweat to get to this stage of freedom and democracy, and the more than life, if you like. And this has happened after Saddam has been overthrown, three years ago. I think this is a happy ending of one of the most horrific, tragic story in the recent history of Iraq.

BRAND: This trial though has been criticized for not being a fair trial, and some human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, are worried that the execution is perhaps being carried out too quickly.

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: Not at all. The Appeals Courts has ratified the sentence, and also, there was a defense council from international bodies and from the Arab world, and from Iraqis. I can't see anybody who - how can they grumble about it? He was given the very right of defending and standing for hours to defend himself. This is the right he denied every Iraqi he killed in the last 35 years. So I think nobody should grumble about it.

BRAND: Iraq's National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie. Thank you very much for joining us again.

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: Thank you very much, ma'am.

BRAND: There's more coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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