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Friday, December 29, 2006

U.S. federal court rejects silly legal argument to postpone Saddam's execution

Minutes ago, the Associated Press reported that

[a] U.S. judge refused to stop Saddam Hussein's execution Friday, rejecting a last-minute court challenge by the former Iraqi president.

"Petitioner Hussein's application for immediate, temporary stay of execution is denied," U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said after a hearing over the telephone with attorneys.

When I first heard that this application had been made to a federal court here in the U.S., I started imagining how I might have tried to frame it, were I one of Saddam's lawyers — not because I am, or want to be, or would ever agree to be, one of Saddam's lawyers, but because to analyze a legal argument, you have to put yourself in the shoes of each side's advocates. The best arguments I could imagine still wouldn't have had any ultimate merit, but I could at least imagine some lawyer arguing them without an extreme amount of embarrassed blushing.

Reading the press description of what they actually argued, though, I can't imagine how Saddam's lawyers' heads didn't explode:

Hussein's lawyers filed the court challenge late Friday night, giving the judge just hours to act before the execution was expected to be carried out.

Hussein's attorneys argued that because the former Iraqi president also faced a civil lawsuit in Washington, he had rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he is executed. He has not received notice of those rights and the consequences that the lawsuit would have on his estate, his attorneys said.

Wow, that's thin: Don't let the Iraqis execute him, 'cause he's been sued in America!

The reek of last-minute forum-shopping alone would have prompted all but the most extreme and ideological federal judges to bounce this case. Kudos to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (who is, by the way, a Clinton appointee, but whose background includes three years as a lawyer in the Justice Department's criminal appellate section).

The occasion of this monster's execution is not an occasion for celebration. It's a moment to again mourn his innocent victims, who number at least into the hundreds of thousands, and to take grim satisfaction in the justice, however inadequate and imperfect, that is finally being accorded to their memories.

Posted by Beldar at 08:24 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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(1) Leon Dixon made the following comment | Dec 29, 2006 9:22:06 PM | Permalink

[Post deleted as wildly off-topic. — Beldar]

(2) vnjagvet made the following comment | Dec 29, 2006 9:59:47 PM | Permalink

Well said, Beldar. That was one petition that might have best been left unfiled. Why even bother with such gruel?

(3) DRJ made the following comment | Dec 30, 2006 12:03:51 AM | Permalink

I'm curious. What were the possible arguments you considered?

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Dec 30, 2006 12:35:06 AM | Permalink

DRJ, I expected that they would argue that the execution was de facto an action by the Bush-43 Administration and that the involvement of the Iraqi government was a sham, and that as a result, the U.S. government was obliged to apply due process guarantees greater than what Saddam received at the hands of the Iraqis. Whether he would have been entitled to the full due process guarantees of a United States citizen would have been very difficult for them to establish, so they very likely would have argued international law/norms or tried to read treaties overbroadly to create/impose such obligations. I would have expected them to basically make all the arguments that have been made by any of the lawyers attacking the confinement and trial processes (or lack thereof) with respect to the Gitmo detainees.

It occurs to me that it's conceivable that such challenges had previously been made on Saddam's behalf in federal court here, and that they were rejected at more leisure. That would explain why the argument made Friday was so incredibly weak, but if that happened, I just didn't read about it; I've done no research to rule that possibility out.

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