Outrage as executioners bungle hanging of Saddam's brother
Stephen Farrell in Baghdad
Intelligence chief is decapitated
West dismayed by lack of dignity
Through his black hood, Awad al-Bandar’s lips are still moving in prayer. Barzan al-Tikriti stands beside him, immobile, in an identical orange suit. The double trapdoor swings open. Both ropes jerk to a halt, but al-Tikriti’s body keeps falling, the empty noose swinging in the air.
Even though we knew what was coming it was still a shock: a judicial decapitation live on video. Just when you thought that every ounce of drama had been wrung from this ill-starred judicial process.
The last moments of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and the chief of his Revolutionary Court are a gruesome piece of footage, showing what appears to have been a miscalculation by the executioner, one of six men in balaclavas. The Iraqi Government seems to have screened the film — only once, and only to a small number of journalists — to avoid the outcry that built throughout the day across the Arab world about Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti’s last moments.
London and Washington voiced dismay. Tony Blair’s spokesman said that the manner of the execution was wrong. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, was disappointed that the accused were not given greater dignity.
Al-Tikriti, 55, was no stranger to violent and gruesome death. Head of the Baathist regime’s feared intelligence service from 1979 to 1983, he was found guilty of supervising the round-up and execution of 148 Shia villagers in Dujail in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt against Saddam. Witnesses at the trial claimed that he personally oversaw torture sessions, eating grapes as he watched one victim being brutalised.
Al-Tikriti, the five of clubs in America’s “Most Wanted” deck of cards, was captured by special forces in Baghdad in April 2003. Last year, along with Saddam, Judge Awad al-Bandar and others, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity. He remained loyal to Saddam to the end.