Prescott attacks 'deplorable' Saddam execution scene
The manner of Saddam Hussein's execution was "deplorable" and could
not be endorsed, the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, said
yesterday, breaking the British government's silence over the insults
and sectarian chants heard as the former Iraqi leader went to the
Palestinians carry a mock coffin for late Iraqi leader Saddam
Hussein during a rally against his execution in Bureij Refugee Camp,
central Gaza Strip ,Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. -AP
Mr Prescott - in charge of the government while Tony Blair is on
holiday - admitted that his condemnation of the manner of the hanging
would prove controversial. He was speaking on BBC radio after a grainy
video of the execution, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, revealed
verbal exchanges between Saddam, witnesses and guards, including people
chanting the name of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and telling
Saddam to "go to hell".
The Iraqi government had previously released soundless film
suggesting the execution had been dignified and had not involved any
humiliation or sectarian insults. It has since launched an inquiry into
how the hanging came to be unofficially filmed by someone among the
20-or-so people present, turning it into a gruesome spectacle that has
inflamed sectarian anger.
Mr Prescott said: "I think the manner was quite deplorable really. I
don't think one can endorse in any way that, whatever your views about
capital punishment." He added: "Frankly, to get the kind of recorded
messages coming out is totally unacceptable and I think whoever is
involved and responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves."
Challenged that the Iraqi government was responsible, he replied: "If
they are responsible, I pass my comment and that's where I stand." He
said he did not know if the British government had formally protested to
the Iraqi government over the hanging.
Mr Blair has said nothing about the death of Saddam, and the foreign
secretary Margaret Beckett, before the mobile phone version was
circulated, simply said Saddam has suffered for his crimes. Privately
the Foreign Office is keenly aware that the insults will be seen as
another sign that the Iraqi state is now run by Shia Muslims who have
little interest in national reconciliation with the Sunni community.
Several Iraqi bloggers who are unsympathetic to Saddam have
complained that the execution looked more like political vengeance than
Most complaints, though, have focused on the rush to execute Saddam
before sunrise on Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest days in the Muslim
calendar. It has emerged from Washington that the Americans pressed the
Iraqi government to delay the hanging to a less sensitive time but were
spurned by the Iraqis.
A spokesman for the Iraqi government in London denied that Saddam had
been humiliated, and pointed out that Saddam had shown no respect to his
Mr Prescott's remarks are likely to be welcomed inside the Labour
party. The anti-war MP Peter Kilfoyle said Mr Blair's silence was yet
another error in a long list.
In France, both frontrunners in the coming presidential election
condemned the execution. Nicolas Sarkozy, currently interior minister,
described it as a "mistake" and said it would not help efforts to build
a democratic Iraq.
"The execution of Saddam Hussein, the worst of men, is a mistake," he
wrote in Le Monde newspaper, while stressing his opposition to the death
"I wish I could have hailed Saddam Hussein's trial as a landmark in
the process of bringing democracy to Iraq.
"I deeply regret that Saddam Hussein, the dictator who had more blood
on his hands than anyone in the world, was not made to stand trial for
his other crimes."