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The Day Saddam Hussein’s Corpse Was Laid in Front of Maliki’s Home 

The Day Saddam Hussein’s Corpse Was Laid in Front of Maliki’s Home 

Saturday, 31 December, 2022 - 08:00
Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein gestures during his trial in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 29, 2006. (AP)

Friday marked the 16th anniversary of the execution of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 


The death sentence did not come as a shock. But the events that accompanied the execution and its fallout will continue to haunt Judge Rauf Rashid who announced the sentence. 


The video recording of Saddam’s final moments, when the noose was tied around his neck amid chants of “Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada” - a reference of Iraqi leader Moqatda al-Sadr - was widely circulated and remains in Iraq’s collective memory. 


The execution took on a sectarian turn because it took place at dawn on Eid al-Adha. 


Another aspect related to the execution lingered on in the country. I paid a visit to Judge Rashid in Erbil in May 2007 and we discussed the execution. 


He did not wish to delve into the details that upset him. Some people present at the execution took Saddam’s corpse and laid it in front of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's house as a form of “gloating” as that would be the first time the two officials would ever “meet”. 


Maliki had signed the execution order because then President Jalal Talabani was committed to an international agreement that prohibits the death penalty. 


I met with Maliki in May 2010. He served as prime minister at the time and was known as the “strong man in the post-Saddam era”. The meeting was amicable and long and he encouraged me to ask him about Saddam. 


I asked him how he felt about signing his death sentence. He replied: “My wish was not to see him hanged as that would have been a form of salvation for him. The execution is nothing to the crimes he committed.” 


“He should have remained in prison, humiliated and shamed, to set an example to dictators,” he confided. “But the will of the people and families of martyrs prevailed.” 


I asked him if he feared that Saddam would retain the image of the hero in the Arab collective memory because he was toppled by a foreign force. Maliki said: “Saddam can only be a hero to those who share his views and behavior.” 


“What acts of heroism did he offer? His defeats and the chaos he created? Or his policy that culminated in the arrival of foreign forces?” wondered Maliki. 


“I advise all leaders against ending up like Saddam,” he added. 


Maliki said he had never met Saddam, but was forced to view his corpse at the insistence of others. 


“I stood before his corpse for half a minute. I told him: ‘What use is your execution? Will it bring back our martyrs and the country that you destroyed?’” 


I did not tell Maliki that his statement reminded me of the violent images that marked Iraqi history over the decades. He recalled the image of Abdul Karim Qassem being dragged to the radio building and the ensuing dialogue between him and his comrade in the revolt, Abdul Salam Aref, who refused to oppose his execution. 


Back to Judge Rashid, he said he did not sympathize with Saddam, but did not feel the need to gloat before him either. He recalled that Saddam was expecting the death sentence against him and did not show a sign of weakness or of being unsettled. The execution would cast a shadow over Judge Rashid’s life for years to come. 


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