Kurds Feel Cheated by Saddam's Execution

Many Kurds say they are upset about the prospect of Saddam Hussein being executed before being tried for atrocities against the Kurds, says Najmaldin Karim, president of the Washington Kurdish Institute. Robert Siegel talks with Karim, who has been on the phone with people in Kurdistan for the last three days.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Would justice be served by the execution of Saddam Hussein before a verdict in the second case in which he's being tried, the one about the Anfal Campaign against the Kurds, as in northern Iraq? Well, Dr. Najmaldin Karim is president of the Washington Kurdish Institute.

He's joining us by phone from Greenbelt, Maryland. And I gather, Dr. Karim that a lot of Kurds think that the prompt execution of Saddam Hussein would not be a case of justice being served right now.

Dr. NAJMALDIN KARIM (President, Washington Kurdish Institute): I believe that executing Saddam quickly will be travesty to justice. I fought Saddam myself in the ‘70s. I have had immediate family members killed by Saddam Hussein. Many close friends or relatives have disappeared. Saddam deserves punishment for Dujail. There is no question about it. But Saddam committed much more heinous crimes after Dujail.

SIEGEL: Before pursuing that a bit more, I want to ask you this - some people object to the execution simply on the grounds of their objections to the death penalty. Do you have any misgivings at all about executing anyone at this point in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein?

Dr. KARIM: I mean that's a personal - I mean when it comes to death penalty, I have my own views on death penalty. But the issue here is I think Saddam will be executed sooner or later. But executing him now, it will be travesty. What about those victims, what about history? If after World War II, the Nazi criminals were executed and didn't go through the Nuremberg trials, the new generation would not be able to know exactly what happened in World War II. And I think this is very important for survivors of those who perished during the Anfal campaign.

SIEGEL: Your objection is not simply a matter of fixing guilt to Saddam Hussein, it's spelling out what happened. The man can only be executed once, obviously. But the point is you feel there should be a trial documenting what happened in the Anfal campaign.

Dr. KARIM: Yes. Absolutely. And in addition to serving justice to those who perished, I think that the trial can reveal also who was complicit in helping Saddam Hussein. There were people and countries who were aiding Saddam Hussein during those years, and I believe that going through with the trial with him there can reveal some of those facts.

SIEGEL: Can't there be, in addition to the trials that have taken place so far, some commission or forum or formal investigation into the Anfal campaign and the attempted genocide of the Kurds, that would establish an historical record and wouldn't necessarily require a continuation of the trial of Saddam Hussein?

Dr. KARIM: I think, being from the Middle East and from that part of the world, once the culprit is gone, then the tendency to go through any type of commission to document those crimes and atrocities that were committed will be very, very unlikely.

SIEGEL: Was this a case of the Iraqi courts not considering Kurdish sensibilities enough? Do you think that people said Saddam Hussein should not be executed for a campaign against the Kurds because that might not seem as legitimate to the majority Arabs of Iraq, a reason to execute him as a crime against Iraqi Arabs?

Dr. KARIM: There may be some Arabs who think that way, but in reality, I think that's even more the point why the trial should go on, because having the truth come out and what happened during those years when Saddam committed those crimes, will and most likely convince those who thought that this never happened.

So for the trial to occur and for these facts to come out, I think it will be very helpful for them to understand what a criminal, what a beast Saddam Hussein was.

SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Karim, thank you very much for talking with us.

Dr. KARIM: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's Dr. Najmaldin Karim, who is president of the Washington Kurdish Institute. He spoke to us from suburban Maryland.

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