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Saddam Verdict 'A Great Day' For Iraqis, Rice Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2006 – The guilty verdict handed down Nov. 5 to former dictator Saddam Hussein marks “a great day for the Iraqi people,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

Appearing on Fox News Channel, Rice saluted Iraqi judges and lawyers who were involved in Saddam’s yearlong trial, telling host Neil Cavuto they’d “been going on under the most difficult circumstances.”

The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced Saddam to hang for his complicity involving acts of torture and murder of citizens of Dujail, Iraq, in 1982. Saddam also charged in a separate trial with murdering Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s.

The Dujail trial demonstrates “that the rule of law is strong in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein will be punished for his crimes,” Rice said.

Regarding the imposition of the death penalty on Saddam, Rice noted that Iraqi law does recommend capital punishment for some high crimes.

“It is, of course, an Iraqi process, it is an Iraqi decision,” Rice pointed out. Iraqi courts, she added, do have an appeals process.

Asked if Saddam’s guilty verdict could influence the level of violence in Iraq, Rice responded that Saddam, a Sunni Arab, had murdered, abused and mistreated Iraqis of all groups -- Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs.

“He didn’t do this to Shiia, he didn’t just do it to Kurds,” Rice said. “There were an awful lot of Arabs and Sunnis who also suffered at his hand.”

The just-concluded trial is part of a broad process to bring about national reconciliation among Iraq’s many sects, tribes and ethnic groups, Rice explained, despite the violence and turbulence instigated by the enemies of a new, democratic Iraq.

“The Iraqis have completed this trial; it’s something that the Iraqi people should be proud of,” Rice noted. “And, now we’ll see what the appeals process brings and we will see how they choose to carry out the sentence.”

Regardless of the outcome of Saddam’s petition for appeal, the main factor to remember, Rice said, is that the Iraqis put on a fair and lawful trial for the deposed dictator.

“This is an Iraqi process, not an American process, not an international process,” Rice pointed out. “The Iraqis deserve to run this for themselves.”

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