Bildt on Saddam: right verdict, wrong sentence

In response to the death sentence passed on Saddam Hussein on Sunday morning, Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt has said that it is extremely satisfying that the former dictator has been made to answer for his crimes and that the first verdict has now been handed down.

“It is of the utmost importance that those who bear the highest responsibility for the serious and massive abuses of human rights of the previous regime now answer for their actions,” he said in a press statement.

But at the same time, Bildt expressed regret that Iraq has not chosen to abolish the death penalty.

“Sweden and the European Union’s position on the matter is well-known and our rejection of the death penalty is without exception,” he said.

Carl Bildt added that the judicial process and the verdict against Saddam would not solve Iraq’s political problems.

Swedish judge Lennart Aspegren was not surprised by the verdict.

“Unfortunately I had expected that he would be sentenced to death, but I consider it to be extremely unfortunate that the death sentence has been applied,” he told TT.

“I believe that it could cause problems,” said Aspegren.

Above all, the court’s legitimacy is questionable, he said, since it does not have the backing of the UN security council.

Lennart Aspegren himself helped to train Iraq’s most senior judges, prosecutors and lawyers.

“We spoke a lot about both torture and the death penalty, which those of us who delivered the training considered to be reprehensible, inhumane and ineffective methods.”

Aspegren said that in his view the trial of Saddam Hussein had not been handled well.

“One has a right to a fair trial and that can be questioned here when it comes to the formalities. It appears to have been messy, with constant breaks, throwing people out and changing lawyers and judges. It hasn’t really been dealt with in a way that can one could expect for such a serious trial.”

Nevertheless, many Iraqis in Sweden were said to be jubliant over the verdict.

“It’s very positive. It shows that dictators cannot escape justice,” said Hikmet Hussein, secretary general of the National Iraqi Association, to Expressen.

He told the paper that there were no qualms over the death sentence.

“Everyone is satisfied, the families who lost their loved ones as a result of the horrific crimes which Saddam Hussein committed against the Iraqi people,” he said.