Saddam faces gallows

BAGHDAD (Reuters) — Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is due to be hanged within weeks but the government has given few details of how, when and where it will hang him.

The following are details of his detention and the execution system in Iraq:

— An appeals court on Tuesday upheld his death sentence for crimes against humanity and said he must hang within 30 days.

— Iraq’s constitution says the Presidency Council — the president and two vice presidents — must ratify death sentences. However the head of the appeals court said according to tribunal statutes nobody, not even the president, has the power to overturn or lessen the sentence. President Jalal Talabani does not sign death warrants on principle but he can delegate this duty to a deputy.

— Throughout the trial, Saddam has been in US custody at Camp Cropper, part of the US military headquarters at Baghdad airport, even though he is legally held by the Iraqi court. US officials say Saddam, a Sunni, will be hanged by his countrymen, but it is unclear when he will be handed over, or if he has been already.

— Saddam’s sentence was that he be “hanged until death” and the Saddam-era Iraqi penal code specifies hanging for civilians, a method formalised under British rule after World War I. In September, the Iraqi Shiite-led government released film of what it said were five of 27 men executed on one day. They stood hooded and dressed in green overalls, hands behind their backs.

— The penal code prescribes hanging “inside the prison or any other place”. Recent executions have taken place at a formally secret “death row” known as the Maximum Security Office at a site labelled by American forces as “Camp Justice” in the northern Baghdad suburb of Kadhimiya. Inmates were held in solitary confinement after their appeals failed and then sent to a newly constructed gallows on site, defence lawyers say.

— A public execution is unlikely with the government seeking to avoid stirring up political tensions. But many will expect at least visual proof of their former leader’s demise, as when US forces published graphic images of his dead sons and showed the bodies to journalists after they were killed in July 2003.

— Families of people sentenced to death are normally notified of the execution day up to a week in advance and may have a final visit up to a day before. If they wish, the families may retrieve the body for burial.

— One defence lawyer whose client was recently hanged told Reuters the execution took place in the presence of a doctor, a cleric, representatives of the interior and justice ministries and the executioner.

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