World leaders weighed in on the execution of Saddam Hussein Saturday, with many expressing their satisfaction that the former dictator was held accountable for his crimes, but also expressing disapproval of the use of the death penalty.
Several politicians also warned Saddam’s execution will only further destabilize Iraq and spark more sectarian violence.
After Hussein was hanged in Baghdad U.S. President George W. Bush said the former dictator received “the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime”, but noted Saddam’s death will not end the violence.
“Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror,” Bush said in a statement.
The former Iraqi leader was hanged Saturday morning for his role in the reprisal murders of 148 Shiite Muslims in 1982, following an attempt on his life.
There was a mixed reaction from Britain, a key U.S. ally. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Saddam has now been held accountable for his crimes, but added the European Union has a strong stance against the death penalty. Leaders from Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Ukraine and the Netherlands echoed Beckett’s statement, as did the government of Chile.
Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm called the execution “barbaric” and said he would’ve preferred to have seen Saddam sit in a jail cell for the rest of his life.
The Vatican too, denounced the use of the death penalty, calling the sentence “tragic”.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to issue an official statement on the execution, but Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay issued a one-line statement Saturday that reads: “Canada joins other nations in supporting the desire of Iraq’s leaders and citizens for a peaceful and prosperous future.”
Australian leader John Howard said the former dictator received a fair trial.
“I believe there is something quite heroic about a country that is going through the pain and the suffering that Iraq is going through, yet still extends due process to somebody who was a tyrant and brutal suppressor and murderer of his people,” Howard said.
“That is the mark of a country that is trying against fearful odds to embrace democracy,” he added.
Russia, a vocal critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, expressed regret that international opposition was ignored and warned that Saddam’s death could usher in even more violence in the nation plagued by sectarian fighting.
“The political consequences of this step should have been taken into account,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
“The country is being plunged into violence and is essentially on the edge of large-scale civil conflict,” he said. “The execution of Saddam Hussein may lead to the further aggravation of the military-political atmosphere and an increase in ethnic and religious tension.”
Leaders from India, Pakistan and South Africa expressed similar fears for the troubled Middle Eastern country.
The timing of Saddam’s execution apparently irked Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The former Iraqi president was taken to the gallows as Iraqis prepared for one of the most important holidays in Islam, the festival of Eid al-Adha.
“We wish to say that Eid is a day for happiness and reconciliation. It is not a day for revenge,” Karzai said after offering an Eid prayer at Kabul’s main mosque.
Eid celebrations were cancelled in Libya and the nation will mark three days of mourning. Saddam’s death was also met with sadness in the West Bank and Gaza and in Bethlehem, where “houses of condolences” were organized for people to mourn.
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