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May 30, 2012

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, has been today handed a 50-year sentence for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The court previously held he financed a war which left an estimated 50,000 dead.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

Taylor, 64, is considered likely to remain incarcerated for life if the sentence stands, but his legal team has vowed to appeal. The prosecution sought an 80-year sentence. Taylor’s is the first conviction of a head of state by an international tribunal since the fallout from World War Two, when the Nuremberg trials were underway.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is operating from the Netherlands to avoid unrest if Taylor were tried in Africa, spent more than a year deliberating before convicting Taylor last month. Acquitted of ordering crimes or of acting in a joint enterprise to conduct them, he was nonetheless convicted of aiding and abetting the offences. There were 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 for the defence.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee and went on trial later that year. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, received training from late Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made. Taylor was convicted in late April of aiding and abetting forcing amputation, as well as rape, murder, child soldier recruitment, sexual slavery, and pillaging.

The court’s panel of judges, presided over by Judge Richard Lussick, heard a 30-minute address by Taylor at an earlier sentencing hearing. “I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone,” said Taylor, adding he acted “with honour” and as a peacemaker, asking for “reconciliation, not retribution” in sentencing. Taylor also gave evidence at his own trial, spending seven months of testimony saying he strove for peace in the region.

Lussick noted the panel felt 80 years to be excessive given that Taylor was cleared of directly carrying out offences. However, the court found other factors aggravated the case: In particular, he was a head of state. “Leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes,” Lussick said in court. “The special status of Mr. Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing,” the judge said, with the convict “in a class of his own”.

“[His] positions both as president of Liberia and within the west African regional bodies distinguish him from any other individual that has appeared before this court,” Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said at a sentencing hearing. “Taylor’s abuse of his authority and influence is especially egregious given that west African leaders repeatedly entrusted him with a role to facilitate peace.” She had claimed “No significant mitigating circumstances exist in this case.”

Lussick also told the court today Taylor stood convicted of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history”. “The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions.” These were, the court said, crimes of the “utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality”. The prosecution had claimed Taylor followed no more motivation beyond simple greed and power lust. Lussick said today the judges were unanimous in imposing a term of 50 years.

The defence had called for a sentence that gave Taylor a realistic prospect of eventual release. They also noted he is set to be sent to the United Kingdom to serve sentence. The defendant would be “culturally isolated”, facing a “punishment within a punishment”. At least one war crimes convict has been attacked in prison in the UK, and it is anticipated Taylor will end up in a high-security prison after the UK Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

“The sentence is clearly excessive, clearly disproportionate to his circumstances, his age and his health and does not take into account the fact that he stepped down from office voluntarily,” said counsel for the accused Morris Anya. The prosecution may also appeal the sentencing, and the verdict itself with intent to increase Taylor’s convictions beyond merely aiding and abetting. The defence also intends to appeal the verdict.

The appeals process means Taylor is likely to remain at The Hague for several months, where the court has been holding sessions in nearby Leidschendam. He is the last defendant to face trial before the Special Court, which has previously convicted and sentenced eight other prominent figures in the conflict.



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April 26, 2012

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

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  • 31 January 2015: US soldier who died after serving in Liberia tests negative for Ebola
  • 3 October 2014: Texas governor and health officials address public regarding Ebola case
  • 10 September 2014: WHO warns of thousands of new Ebola cases
  • 11 August 2014: WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international emergency
  • 12 April 2014: Spain’s men remain on top of FIFA global rankings for April 2014
…More articles here
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Former President of Liberia Charles Taylor was today found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. Taylor was acquitted of actually ordering the offences or being part of a joint enterprise to conduct them.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

The eleven-count indictment produced a four-year trial that heard allegations of rape, murder, sexual slavery, cannibalism, arms dealing, “blood” diamond trade, and use of child soldiers. Prosecution witnesses totalled 94 whilst the defence had 21 including the accused. Taylor spent his seven months of evidence claiming he was a peacemaker.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, had received training from Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made.

The court, which has spent a year considering its verdicts, unanimously found Taylor guilty. It ruled Taylor knew at least from 1997 the full extent of RUF activities in Sierra Leone, and that he helped bankroll activities dealing in blood diamonds. A judge said more than a thousand youngsters had ‘RUF’ carved into their skin to prevent escape. From the moment he receives the full judgement Taylor has two weeks in which to file an appeal.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International welcomed the verdict, which is the first conviction of a head of state before an international court since the Nuremburg trials prosecuted Nazi leaders after World War Two. Karl Dönitz was convicted after he took brief control of Germany in the aftermath of Adolf Hitler‘s suicide.

Former President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic faced trial but died before a judgement was handed down. Laurent Gbagbo, once Presldent of the Ivory Coast, is in custody at The Hague awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court. Taylor joins eight other Special Court convicts, all of whom are from Sierra Leone. He is the first African ruler to appear in The Hague.

The Special Court was formed jointly by Sierra Leone’s present administration and the United Nations.

The Netherlands agreed the process could be held there on the condition Taylor did not serve sentence there if convicted. He is expected to be sent to the UK, where Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.



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May 22, 2007

Murder charge to be brought in Litvinenko death

Murder charge to be brought in Litvinenko death

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The United Kingdom Crown Prosecution Service has announced that it has sufficient evidence that a former FSB (formerly KGB) officer should be charged with the murder last year of Alexander Litvinenko.

Andrey Lugovoy is charged with the murder of Mr Litvinenko, by the administration of the highly radioactive Polonium-210 in a hotel in Mayfair, London, on 1st November 2006. Mr Litvinenko, 43, died of radiation sickness in University College Hospital on 23rd November. The case received considerable publicity at the time, with pictures of Litvinenko in hospital and showing the effects of the radiation poisoning.

Litvinenko was himself a former Russian FSB agent and was a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had tried to publish a book in Russia describing Putin’s rise to power as having been organised by the KGB. He was forced to flee from Russia and had lived for some time in London, being granted British Citizenship in October 2006.

He continued his dissent throughout the remainder of his life, culminating in a posthumous statement published on 24th November 2006 alleging that Putin was responsible for his death.

Investigation and charge

Cquote1.svg I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning Cquote2.svg

—Sir Ken Macdonald, CPS

Litvinenko’s murder led to a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service and additional specialist police forces following a trail of sites which had been contaminated with radiation, leading eventually to Moscow. A file of evidence was sent in January 2007 to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration as to whether any criminal charges might be brought.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, in announcing the decision to prosecute, said: “Prosecutors from CPS Counter Terrorism Division have carefully considered the material contained in that police file. They have also asked the police to carry out further inquiries, which are now complete. And, finally, they have consulted with me.”

“I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning. I have further concluded that a prosecution of this case would clearly be in the public interest.”

“In those circumstances, I have instructed CPS lawyers to take immediate steps to seek the early extradition of Andrey Lugovoy from Russia to the United Kingdom, so that he may be charged with murder – and be brought swiftly before a court in London to be prosecuted for this extraordinarily grave crime.”

Extradition unlikely

The announcement followed the summoning of the Russian Ambassador to London to the Foreign Office to be told by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett that she expected that the Russian authorities would co-operate fully with Britain to arrange the extradition of Mr Lugovoi to stand trial in London. However there are indications from Moscow that the extradition of Lugovoi, who denies any involvement in the murder, is unlikely to happen. Marina Gridneva, spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said that “under Russian law, a citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be handed over to a foreign country”.

There is no bilateral extradition treaty between Russia and the UK. Legislation passed by Russia to deal with individual requests from countries in Europe rules out the extradition of its citizens, even to the extent that when in 1966 it became a signatory to the European convention on extradition, it granted itself an exemption from such a course.

However it has been reported that such a ban on extradition would not necessarily prevent Lugovoi being tried in Russia using evidence from the UK.

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December 4, 2006

Blair to announce plans for UK nuclear defence today

Blair to announce plans for UK nuclear defence today

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Monday, December 4, 2006

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is at 3:30pm to present a White Paper in the House of Commons today indicating the Government’s plans to replace the Trident missile system with a similar system but on a reduced scale. The speech is called : Statement: Trident – The Future of the UK Nuclear Deterrent.

The Trident defence system was developed as Britain’s response to the Cold War which ended with the collapse of the USSR in December 1991. The first Trident submarine went on patrol in December 1994.

The present system consists of Trident ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads carried by four Vanguard class nuclear powered submarines. The main issue is about the replacement of the submarine fleet.

There is to be debate about the proposals. Supporters who include the majority of the main opposition party, argue that because of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and threats from countries such as Iran and North Korea, Britain must have a nuclear defence capability. Opponents including at least one Cabinet Minister and several Labour back benchers, say that the system is an inappropriate response to the present threats to national security, terrorism, energy shortage and climate change and that there are better ways of spending the money. The Liberals advocate delay in making the decision. Fifteen Anglican bishops have denounced the possession of such a weapon as ‘evil’.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), said that although Scotland had no power to stop the replacment of the Trident weapons system, it had a host of powers to protect the environment. He promised that if the UK government went ahead with the Trident project, the SNP would propose to use those powers to stop it proceeding in Scotland. There are two establishments in Scotland, at Faslane and Rosyth, providing services to the nuclear submarine fleet.

Related news

  • “Britain to replace Trident nuclear missile system” — Wikinews, November 24, 2006
  • “Cabinet to discuss UK nuclear deterrent for the first time tomorrow” — Wikinews, November 22, 2006
  • “Beckett breaks ranks over Trident” — Wikinews, October 30, 2006

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November 24, 2006

Britain to replace Trident nuclear missile system

Britain to replace Trident nuclear missile system

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Britain currently deploys 4 Vanguard class submarines, each armed with 16 Trident II D-5 missiles carrying up to 12 nuclear warheads apiece.

The British Cabinet decided that Britain will retain its nuclear deterrent by replacing the Trident missile system carried on submarines, in its first meeting on the subject yesterday. The case for considering land-based and airborne systems made by former Defence Minister Geoff Hoon was rejected.

The Cabinet agreed that three or four new submarines should be built to carry the new missiles, but the number of nuclear warheads to be carried by each vessel will be decided at a later date. The existing fleet of four Vanguard class submarines, even if refitted, is due for decommissioning by 2024 at the latest. The time for design and construction is expected to be 17 years, so there is a need for an early decision. Chancellor Gordon Brown is reported as being keen to get construction started as soon as possible, in order to retain the skills of the existing workforce.

Some Cabinet Ministers thought to oppose the replacement of Trident, who worried that there might be a breach of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or who had concern that the Labour party had not been consulted sufficiently. They include Margaret Beckett and Peter Hain, who, until recently, was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Cabinet Ministers expressed themselves content to carry out consultation and have a debate in Parliament in February.

Some 200 Members of Parliament have demanded that Parliament debate alternatives. It was agreed that a white paper for this purpose would be published before Christmas and a period of consultation would follow. Parliament would be asked to vote on the Cabinet’s proposal—not to choose between alternative systems, but to support the Cabinet’s choice “in principle.” Although the Government, with Conservative support, is most likely to get approval for its plan, Jack Straw, Leader of the House, has announced that the vote will be whipped.

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“Cabinet to discuss UK nuclear deterrent for the first time tomorrow” — Wikinews, November 22, 2006

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November 22, 2006

Cabinet to discuss UK nuclear deterrent for the first time tomorrow

Cabinet to discuss UK nuclear deterrent for the first time tomorrow

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Labour Party’s 2005 election manifesto read “We are committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent”. Although there have been reports that planning and design work on replacement vessels and new designs of nuclear war heads has been proceeding for some years, the first Cabinet meeting to consider this pledge will take place tomorrow.

No Cabinet papers have been circulated before the meeting at which it is said there will be a “first run round the issues”. A further Cabinet meeting is to be held prior to the publication of a White Paper just before Christmas. The principle of retaining a nuclear deterrent will be put to the vote in the House of Commons next year and, although it may split the Labour Party, is likely to be carried with the support of the Conservative opposition.

It is reported that some Cabinet Ministers have reservations about the prudence of maintaining the nuclear deterrent when the apparent threats are from saboteurs and suicide bombers. They also have doubts about the legality of adding to the stock of nuclear warheads contrary to the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and about the way that the decision is being pushed through without consultation with the Labour Party. Among those with doubts are the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, Hilary Benn, Minister of State for International Development, and Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland.

The only other European country with nuclear capability is France. Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor Brown are agreed on the need to retain a nuclear deterrent. Their reasons include keeping the country’s seat at the top table of international politics.

The Trident missile system is carried in four nuclear-powered Vanguard class submarines, the first of which was commissioned in August 1993. The current Trident system cost £12.6 Bn to introduce at 1996 prices, and requires £280m a year to maintain.

Replacements for the smaller nuclear-powered w:attack submarines are under construction and will be armed with Tomahawk missile tactical missile systems. The atomic weapons establishment at Aldermaston is reported to be developing tactical nuclear weapons, smaller and of shorter range than Trident suitable for firing using the same type of launcher as Tomahawks.

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“UK Foreign Secretary Beckett breaks ranks over Trident” — Wikinews, October 30, 2006

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November 13, 2006

UK to step up anti-terror legislation

UK to step up anti-terror legislation – Wikinews, the free news source

UK to step up anti-terror legislation

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Monday, November 13, 2006

New measures to counter the threat of terrorism in UK are expected in the Queen’s Speech.

Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan police chief, in a speech in Berlin, highlighted the scale of disaffection among the Muslim community, pointing to reports that between 40,000 and 120,000 Muslims believed that the London bombings, when four British suicide bombers killed 52 civilians, were justified. He believed that this disaffection was related to the very negative way in which many in the Muslim community perceived the country’s foreign policy. This view had been expressed last month by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and by the Head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, earlier in the week. However, Prime minister Tony Blair contested the strong connection to foreign policy, saying that the problem has “grown up over a generation”.

Sir Ian outlined where he thought new legislation was needed. Despite the fact that the measure had caused the Government to be defeated in the last session of Parliament, he wanted the extension of the 28 days suspects can be held without charge to be reconsidered. He wanted the law restricting the reporting of court proceedings relaxed to let people, particularly in the communities from which those on trial come, to see justice being done. As things stand, once they have charged a suspect, the police have no right to continue questioning; this should be changed, he said. He also wanted phone tap evidence to be allowed in court and flag burning to be made illegal. Home Secretary John Reid will have an opportunity of introducing new legislation in the Queen’s Speech.

Following Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller’s statement that MI5 has the task of keeping track of 1,600 suspects engaged in 30 known terrorist plots with a staff of 2,800, and that disaffection is increasing as never before, it is expected that more resources will be provided to support her department’s work. Patrick Mercer, the shadow homeland security minister said that both the intelligence and security servcies needed a substantial increase in resources. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has said that his first priority as Prime Minister would be to head anti-terrorism measures personally. In his present post he has responsibility for the allocation of resources to government departments.

The opinion poll findings quoted by Dame Eliza are questioned by the 1990 Trust (a charitable trust supported by the Rowntree Trust, Comic Relief, CRE and others). Introducing an internet survey conducted between the 8th and 27th September 2006, Karen Chouhan of the 1990 Trust said “This (referring to Dame Manningham-Buller’s speech) is nothing short of irresponsible politicking and journalism which is designed to create a moral panic to pave the way for renewed legislative assaults on civil liberties and can only serve to fuel fears and hostility towards Muslim communities in the UK”. The specific criticism of the use being made of the ICM/Sunday Telegraph Poll, that has been widely reported, is that “some sections of the media have conflated Muslim respondents answering positively to the question of whether they have sympathy ‘with the feeling and motives of those who carried out the attacks’ (20% of those polled in the same ICM/Telegraph survey of February 2006 answered affirmatively) with the violence itself. To understand the motive behind an action cannot be equated with violence itself, and the media have a responsibility to create a clear demarcation”.

A Report from the Joseph Rowntree Trust, by Professor Stuart Weir, Director of Democratic Audit at the University of Essex, Dr Andrew Blick and Tufyal Choudhury was published today November 13, 2006. It concludes that “the government’s counter terrorism legislation and rhetorical stance are between them creating serious losses in human rights and criminal justice protections…and so are prejudicing the ability of the government and security forces to gain the very trust and cooperation from individuals in those communities that they require to combat terrorism.”

Parliament resumes its work next week when the Queen’s Speech will indicate what new anti-terrorist and anti-racist legislation the Government intends to propose.

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November 10, 2006

MI5 Chief: surprised and alarmed by speed of radicalisation of Muslims in UK

MI5 Chief: surprised and alarmed by speed of radicalisation of Muslims in UK

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller giving a speech at Queen Mary College, London, November 2006

Speaking about the “terrorist threat” in Britain, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director-General of the British Security Service MI5, claimed that she was alarmed by the “scale and speed” with which Muslims, even those still at school, are being radicalised.

She told the Mile End Group run by Professor Peter Hennessy, Queen Mary College, that the view of history which prompted feelings of grievance and injustice was shared, not only by extremists, but by many others in the country. For example, opinion polls suggest that over 100,000 people think that the July 7, 2005 attacks in London were justified. (This inference from the data is contested by The 1990 Trust)

She also claimed that MI5 is aware of some 200 groupings, comprising about 1600 individuals, including many teenagers, who are actively planning suicide attacks and the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; these include “resilient networks, some directed from Al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it”.

Tony Blair supported Dame Eliza’s statement, but said “This is a threat that has grown up over a generation.”

Concurrently, the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, in a speech to theRoyal United Services Institute think tank, was calling on the Muslim community to “stand up and be counted” in the fight against extremism. She said that “Muslim communities have a special ability to make a difference in the struggle against extremism.”

Related news

  • “UK to step up anti-terror efforts” — Wikinews, November 12, 2006
  • “Beckett to break ranks again?” — Wikinews, November 5, 2006
  • “UK Government propaganda directed at Muslim youth” — Wikinews, October 23, 2006

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November 5, 2006

Saddam Hussein sentenced to death for Dujail killings

Saddam Hussein sentenced to death for Dujail killings

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Iraq Special Tribunal has finally sentenced the deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to death by hanging over the killings of 148 villagers in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Hussein was charged with crimes against humanity for ordering the killings after a failed assassination attempt was made on him in the mostly Shiite town.

Of his seven co-defendants in the trial, the former head of the Iraqi secret police, Hussein’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and the former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar were also sentenced to death. Former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan was sentenced to life in prison, three other officials received 15 years in prison and one was acquitted.

File:TrialSaddam.jpg

File photo of Saddam Hussein appearing before the Tribunal on July 1, 2004
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Proceedings

The five-member Special Tribunal was authorised by the Iraqi Interim Government to try Iraqi nationals or residents accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious crimes committed during the Ba’ath party rule between 1968 and 2003.

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During today’s hearing, Judge Rauf Rasheed Abdel Rahman ordered bailiffs to force Saddam, who was shouting out protests, to stand as the verdict was read out.

Hussein was reported as appearing shaken as the verdict was pronounced, and later shouted “Allahu Akbar!” (God is greatest) and “Long live the nation!”.

The sentences of death and life in prison carry an automatic appeal, and no time-limit is set for the appeals court review of the case. The law mandates the death sentence to be carried out within 30 days, after all appeals are exhausted.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is a defence attorney in the case, was ordered out of the court by the judges, who said that he had come to mock the Iraqi people and the court. Clarke had described the court yesterday as prejudiced and lacking impartiality, and called attention to the killings of Hussein’s defence lawyers and the removal of judges from the tribunal.

Reactions

In Iraq

Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi coalition government said the verdict was as expected, adding “This is the least that Saddam deserved because his crimes were great. No further punishment was possible.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih called the court “just and professional” and said that Saddam was “given the justice he denied to the people of Iraq over 35 years”.

A Sunni member of parliament, speaking under anonymity to Reuters, however called the judgement “a political verdict from a political court.”

Popular reaction

The verdict was announced amidst increased security measures in Iraq, including curfews in Baghdad and other cities. Despite the curfew, around a thousand people were reported as coming out into the streets of the Shiite-dominated Sadr City in celebration and gunfire was heard in Baghdad.

Celebrations were also reported in Dujail, where the killings took place.

Despite the curfew, about a thousand people demonstrated in Tikrit carrying pictures of Saddam Hussein. Some Sunnis were reported as denouncing the verdict as a “product of the US occupation forces”.

Fighting is reported to have broken out in Adhimiyah, a Sunni district of Baghdad, within half an hour of the verdict. There was heavy firing and mortar shells landed near the Abu Hanifa mosque.

International reactions

The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad said the verdict was “an important milestone for Iraq”.

The U.K. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed the trial’s conclusion, saying it was “right” that Saddam and the other accused have to face Iraqi justice, and that they have been “held to account for their crimes”.

Malcolm Smart, the Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International said that the tribunal’s proceedings failed to meet necessary standards for a fair trial.

Hussein’s verdict was delivered during highly contested midterm elections in United States; where the party most insistent upon an American occupation of Iraq (Republican – GOP) lagged in polls due to domestic controversies.

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October 30, 2006

UK Foreign Secretary Beckett breaks ranks over Trident

UK Foreign Secretary Beckett breaks ranks over Trident

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Margaret Beckett, British Foreign Secretary

Despite commitments already made by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown to replace the Trident missile system and the Royal Navy’s Vanguard class submarines, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is calling for a public debate on the decision.

The Prime Minister has committed to holding a debate in Parliament over the issue.

Beckett told the Sunday Times that it was the Cold War that prompted the Trident programme but that the security situation now is very different.

Though Trident is not due for replacement for 20 years, Tony Blair has promised that there will be decision on Trident this year, due to the long lead time for design and construction. The costs involved may be between 10 and 25 billion pounds.

Beckett said that the public should be informed and should think about the issue themselves.

Her opinion will be welcomed by back bench Labour MPs who are concerned that any opposition to replacing Trident will be suppressed.

Beckett has also taken an independent line before, on Iraq, by expressing ‘regrets’ over the war and saying she did not disagree with General Sir Richard Dannatt, who said that British troops in Iraq were provoking trouble.

Sources

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