Bush administration officials said Wednesday the United States raised concerns about the procedures and timing of the Saddam Hussein execution last Saturday. But they insisted also that justice was done in the case of the former Iraqi leader. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Officials here openly concede that the matter would have been handled differently had the United States been in charge of the process.
But they say the execution, marred by taunting of the former Iraqi leader in his final moments, was under full control of Iraqi officials and that the videotaped misconduct should not obscure the crimes of Saddam Hussein or the fairness of his trial.
A cell-phone video showed the former Iraqi leader being jeered on the gallows by witnesses to the execution, and it touched off protests by Iraqi Sunnis and complaints from governments and human rights groups.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States had raised concerns about the timing of the execution, which came just before the beginning of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, and also over whether procedures the Iraqis had set for carrying out the sentence had been followed in full.
McCormack said Iraqi authorities took the U.S. concerns into consideration, but ultimately made their own judgments about when and how to proceed.
He said those disturbed by the leaked video should not lose sight of the overall fairness of the process that had brought Saddam Hussein to the gallows.
"There was a very solid criminal procedure in which the defendant, in this case Saddam Hussein, had access to evidence, he had the right to his own counsel, and it was a trial that met the standards of international justice," said McCormack. "So none of what happened should in any way detract from that fact. And also the Iraqi government themselves have raised some questions about the way in which the final moments unfolded. Clearly, they were not pleased with the way things unfolded. They launched an investigation into it, as they should."
A senior official here said U.S. authorities in Iraq, who had served as Saddam Hussein's jailers until just before the execution, had questions about whether the death warrant for the former leader had been properly signed by the Iraqi government's top leadership.
He said they were told that under the Iraqi interpretation, all the legal requirements had been fulfilled and that accordingly Saddam Hussein, convicted of crimes against humanity for a mass murder of Shiite men and boys in the 1980s, was handed over for execution.
Earlier, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Major General William Caldwell said the United States would have handled the matter differently but that the staging of the execution was entirely the responsibility of Iraqis.
He said the United States had nothing to do with the facility where the execution took place, and that U.S. personnel were neither present nor involved in searching any of the Iraqis who attended.