Assange, Aziz, a Death Sentence, and the United Nations Day of International Human Rights

“… the high praise of God in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand …” (Psalms : 149.5)

The avalanche of proof provided by Wikileaks that the U.S., and U.K., governments have been indulging in what millions have been convinced of for a very long time: just about every kind of underhand, lying, cheating, murderous skulduggery, with quite an enlightening amount of sneering and back biting towards their “allies.” Predictably, they are now moving heaven and earth to shoot the messenger.

If every government Minister who had allegedly indulged in a frolic with a couple of ladies had an international arrest warrant issued against him, as in the case of Julian Assange, there would be some pretty empty parliaments. In Canada, Professor Tom Flanagan, a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, went further, proposing that assassination was appropriate. Speaking on CBC, he suggested that President “Nobel” Obama should: “put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.” When the programme’s anchor suggested this was “… pretty harsh stuff,” Flanagan responded that he was “… feeling very manly today.” Is there a doctor out there?

In the U.S., former Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee and ex-Pentagon official Kathleen McFarland, called for the execution of those responsible. McFarland, comes from the Reagan, Weinberger, Kissinger stable of “manly” stallions, having worked in a key position for the former, been a speech writer for the second and a key member of the latter’s National Security Council staff. Huckabee is former Governor of Arkansas, now host on Fox News and a Baptist Minister — clearly of Old Testament, hellfire and damnation persuasion.

For Afghanistan and Iraq watchers, many Wiki revelations will be less than surprising, as indeed for those warily watching U.S., threats towards Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. What is gratifying is that there is now the substance to the lethal lies. The informed can no longer be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists,” “fantasists” and the endless other dismissives that knowledgeable realists have been designated. The truth is there, in the the cables — to continue with equestrian metaphors — from the horses’ mouths, so to speak.

Interestingly, countless words and inestimable time have been wasted on Assanage’s and Wikileaks motives. Who cares? An invaluable light has been shone on untruths and deceptions. Such as have led to the destruction of two countries in the name of redemption from despotic rule and human rights violations. Now, in the name of this U.S.-U.K.- led carnage, is despotism and human rights violations of towering proportions.

Since it is still not known how many are in Iraq’s prisons and indeed, even how many secret prisons and concentration camps there are under U.S., continued occupation (by another name) another reminder of the invasion’s lawless world. Just one of the uncounted, incarcerated in Iraq, either untried, or tried on lies and unsubstantiated charges, in what is now a western established rogue state, complete with “disappeared”, in their thousands, kangaroo courts at best, or of a standard, woefully, even lower.

Early on after the coup, USA Today (3 May 2003) ran a piece headed: “Aziz still doesn’t know how to tell the truth.” Speaking in Crawford, Texas: “President Bush expressed unshakable confidence Saturday about finding banned weapons in Iraq and complained that Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein’s closest deputies, is not cooperating with U.S. forces who have him in custody. Bush said the deputy Prime Minister, the most visible face of the former Iraqi government, other than Saddam, ‘still doesn’t know how to tell the truth.’ ”

Aziz had repeated that Iraq had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons — a truth that had been delivered in 12,200 pages to the United Nations weapons inspectors the previous December and hi-jacked by U.S., officials. Bush said that Tariq Aziz “… didn’t know how to tell the truth when he was in office, he doesn’t know how to tell the truth as a captive.” We have long known who was telling the truth.

As the eighth Christmas of his incarceration approaches, with the latest death penalty — handed down on 26 October — stalking his every hour, the liars responsible for the Iraq pogroms walk free and appeals to Aziz’s fellow Christians, in high places, including Archbishops, the Pope and politicians, have been met with deafening silence. “Thou shat not kill” seems to be very selective in Christianity. An ailing, indomitable man, who travelled to Rome, to ask for help once before, of the last Pope, believing that perhaps unity in faith, would persuade Vatican intervention to prevent the destruction of Iraq and its people, the country where believers acknowledge Abraham fathered Christianity, Judaism and Islam at Ur. The church was as silent and unresponsive, then as now.

Tariq Aziz faces the death penalty for one reason, he knows the truth about the liars and lies. He knows the details of the countless pages that were also removed from the back of the 12,200 pages, listing the countries and companies which sold weapons to Iraq, before facilities were destroyed by bombing in 1991, the subsequent halting by Saddam Hussein of a weapons production programme and the destruction of any residual remaining, by the weapons inspectors.

There are parallels in the West’s fundamentalist fatwa’s against Tariq Aziz and Julian Assange, though worlds apart: both have spoken the truth.

Supremely ironically, the original 2006 “trial,” which resulted in the shameful, unforgettable lynching of Saddam Hussein and his colleagues, at which Aziz was also first condemned, was judged “fundamentally flawed,” in a damning, ninety seven page report by Human Rights Watch, who had consistently called for the trial, related to the deaths of those who attempted to assassinate Hussein and Aziz, in Dujail, south Iraq, in 1982. The verdict was “unsound,” with the Court “failing to meet basic fair trial standards. Unless the Iraqi government allows experienced international judges and lawyers to participate directly, it is unlikely the Court can fairly conduct other trials”; it concluded, pointing out that the death penalty was “an inherently inhumane punishment.”

In the light of this perhaps the United Nations might step in? Iraq was one of the earliest signatories to the United Nations Declaration, signing the day after the document was drafted and signed by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, Maxim Litvinov of the USSR, and T.V. Soong of China, on New Year’s Day 1942. Iraq was the fourth signature of the twenty two nations who endorsed the document the following day. But Iraq has long been betrayed by the U.N., and its fine words. Thirteen years of a crippling siege in its name, under near-mute Secretary Generals. The last one, Kofi Annan (yet another utterly unworthy Nobel Peace Prize winner) then took seven months to finally say, after some pressure from the interviewer, that the Iraq invasion was “illegal.” South Korea’s Ban, has done nothing to redress a woefully discredited body, so far removed from its towering stated aims.

In the U.K., others who have been appealed to for clemency for Tariq Aziz, his colleagues and the nameless, uncounted disappeared in Iraq, include Middle East “Peace Envoy” aka illegal invasion enjoiner, fellow very publicly professed Christian, Tony Blair. On 21 February 1994, when Shadow Home Secretary, Blair told Parliament he was adamantly against the death penalty. He is currently adamantly silent.

William Hague, now Foreign Secretary, has been approached by a number of people, a minion answers letters weeks late, on a matter of life and death and says Iraq is a “sovereign state.” International lawyers disagree, one commenting succinctly: “Basically, Iraq is an occupied country, with the U.S., in actual control.” Britain is thus in a position, as partner in the illegal invasion, to demand, publicly, that the executions are halted. Worth a try, but on 21 March 2001, Hague, then Conservative Leader, stated that he supported the death penalty, had always been in favour and had voted for it every time it was debated in Parliament.

Slightly at odds with his address at Lincoln’s Inn, the core of the UK’s legal establishment, on 15 September this year, where he stated: “Our standing is directly linked to the belief of others that we will do what we say and that we will not apply double standards.” Further: “Where problems have arisen that have affected the UK’s moral standing we will deal with them patiently and clearly.”

Three years earlier, at the launch of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission’s Annual Report on 10 December 2007, International Human Rights Day, he stated: “I have pledged several times that the next Conservative Government will put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. As I have said before, I believe we must conduct our foreign policy in a way that does not deviate from our values; central to which is a deeply-held belief in the primacy and inviolability of individual human rights. And on this International Human Rights Day, I hope that we can all work for the day when human rights are regarded by everyone as truly universal.” Work out all those contradictions, dear reader.

Another approached has been Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. On 26 November, he held a special Mass at Westminster Cathedral for all killed or injured in Iraq in recent weeks, especially those who suffered and died during the bombing of Our Lady of Salvation Church, in Baghdad on 31 October. It also provided an opportunity for the Christian community in Britain to show their solidarity with, and to pray for, their brothers and sisters who are currently being persecuted and threatened by Islamists in Iraq, stated the Cathedral website. The “Islamists” in Iraq of the extreme persuasion, came in to a secular country with the invasion, are entirely U.S.,-U.K., planted and are now in “government” and the “security” services. Many are of the same fundamentalist Dawa Party who attempted assassination of Hussein and Aziz, in 1982.

Ironically, the Mass was “… attended by the Iraqi Chargé d’Affaires to the UK …” — part of the Vichy regime which has brought such unimaginable tragedy to Iraq. Archbishop Nichols, seemingly, does services and crocodile tears, for fellow Christians, tragically dead, but does not answer letters about them, when alive and facing impending death. (Westminster Cathedral is also where the man who bears so much responsibility for Iraq’s dead, Tony Blair, was welcomed in to the Catholic fold in 2007.)

Another who has been approached is Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, leader of the seventy million strong Anglican Church. As Archbishop of Wales, on the 57th Anniversary of Hiroshima (6 August 2002) he was one of three thousand signatories on a document handed in to Downing Street, condemning the detailed war plans to remove Saddam Hussein as “immoral and illegal.” It also called for the U.S., and U.K., to open their nuclear, biological and chemical weapons facilities to U.N., weapons inspectors. In January 2002, he had called the attack on Afghanistan “morally tainted” and “embarrassing.”

Since gaining an Office heading a vast church body which preaches peace, forgiveness and sanctity of life, he has joined the deaf, mute, and become unable to write, it would seem.

A further woeful representative of the same Church, went to Baghdad in 1991, at the personal invitation of Tariq Aziz. He returned with the invaders’ tanks. Canon Andrew White, former Middle East envoy to the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, has now dubbed himself the “Vicar of Baghdad.” His bio makes interesting reading, with a host of honours from Israel and the U.S., Government Cross of Valour.

In a recent interview, this man of God who travels to Iraq, he says with 120 armed guards in armour plated vehicles, commented of his fellow Christians: “There is no comparison between Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) then and now. Things are more difficult than they have ever been before. Probably ever in history. They’ve never known it like now.” Indeed, nether have Iraqis of all faiths, or none. Nevertheless, his intervention on behalf of one Christian, who welcomed him and introduced him to Iraq, is notable by its absence. Heaven forbid the funding, the bulk of which, he jokes, comes from the Pentagon, has come between him and his Christian conscience.

A poignant plea for Tariq Aziz and his colleagues to a Papal envoy was made by a Muslim, with deeply held beliefs. At a recent international human rights conference, he approached the Pope’s representative: “Father,” he asked, “where is the Pope, the Catholic Church? You are the shepherds, he is one of your flock, lost and alone …” The reply was less than a commitment.

The tireless Paris based Committee for the Liberation of Political Prisoners in Iraq point out a glaring illegality in their petition for clemency:

The capital punishment meted out, last October, to Tarek Aziz, Saadoun Shaker, Abed Hammoud, Sabawi Ibrahim and Abdel Ghani Abdel Ghaffour is illegal because this punishment (was) suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition, between June 2003 and August 2004. The ‘High Penal Court’ of Iraq must therefore apply to their case the most favorable provision provided by the Iraqi Criminal Code as stipulated by International Law.?? The ‘High Penal Court’ must as well abide by an Iraqi Law that rules that people aged over 70 — as is the present affair — cannot be executed or are pardoned after their sentencing.

Today is the United Nations Day of International Human Rights. Will they mark it by demanding adherence to Articles in their fine Declaration of Human Rights, for Julian Assange and the incarcerated of an invasion called “illegal” by their former Secretary General? Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”; Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading treatment or punishment.”

No hope.

So as Christmas approaches, with God’s representatives on earth preparing their messages of goodwill and celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, a frail man, awaits his fate.

At the beginning of November he wrote to his son, Ziad, asking that it be ensured that he be buried in Jordan, lest his body and grave be desecrated — and that his body be returned to his country: “after Iraq is liberated.”

A poignant irony from one who told me, in an interview before the looming invasion: “When I was ten years old, I was putting leaflets through doors, handing them out on the streets, to stop (western companies) taking over our oil. I will not give up on Iraq now.” He never did. Except from beyond the grave.

It will not have escaped him that Saddam Hussein was executed on 31st December.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on December 10th, 2010 at 8:32am #

    Whoa, Nelly! Tariq Aziz is not going to be executed! That fact has been widely reported in the European media! Wkikpedia: “On November 17, 2010, it was reported that Iraqi President Jalal Talibani had declared that he would not sign Aziz’s execution order”. That followed a public appeal for clemency from Pope Benedict, also widely reported in the European media. Wikipedia:”… [the setence] has sparked regional and international condemnation from Iraqi Bishops and other Iraqis, the Vatican, the United Nations, and the human rights organization Amnesty International, as well as various governments around the world, such as those of the European Union, Greece, and Russia”. So all this tear-jerking about a frail man awaiting his fate is nonsense!

  2. 3bancan said on December 10th, 2010 at 1:44pm #

    MichaelKenny said on December 10th, 2010 at 8:32am #
    According to MichaelKenny “Tariq Aziz is not going to be executed!” – probably – because “Iraqi President Jalal Talibani had declared that he would not sign Aziz’s execution order”.
    Let’s see what MichaelKenny’s beloved BBC reported:
    “Mr Talabani told France 24 television he would never sign the order because of Aziz’s age and because he is an Iraqi Christian.
    The president is known for his general opposition to the death penalty.
    Our correspondent in Baghdad, Gabriel Gatehouse, said that in 2006 Mr Talabani refused to sign a warrant ordering the execution of Saddam Hussein. Instead, the order was ratified by one of Mr Talabani’s two deputies, and the former Iraqi president was hanged all the same.
    It is not clear what will happen in this case.”…
    Imho it would be interesting to hear what the prominent representatives of other religions, especially Judaism, say…

  3. mary said on December 11th, 2010 at 6:08am #

    The hypocrisy and deceit within the church and state in the UK is evident in this good article and here below:

    A small group of us, including a Church of England bishop, wrote to William Hague as follows. NO reply has ever been received. A similar letter went to the Archbishop of Canterbury and was acknowledged only by a secretary.

    The Rt Honourable William J Hague
    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    King Charles St
    SW1A 2AH

    10 November 2010

    The sentencing to death of Tariq Aziz, formerly Foreign Secretary to the Republic of Iraq

    Dear Mr Hague,

    We write as citizens of the UK and as fellow humans. We plead that you and your government seek clemency for this man who represented the interests of Iraq abroad. Our main reasons are:-

    · The present government lacks full legitimacy, so the lawfulness of its courts might not be sound. We note that the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, which tried him, was set up by the Coalition Provisional Authority ie by the occupation forces.

    · The man has been incarcerated since April 2003

    · He is old at 74 years and ill. The BBC reported in January this year that he had suffered a stroke

    How will the agony and the slaughter in Iraq be healed by hooding and hanging this man?

    We are reinforced in our pleading by these clear words in HMG Death Penalty Strategy: October 2010.

    Quote from Executive Summary

    ”Why is abolition of the death penalty important? Promoting human rights and democracy is a priority for the UK. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.”

    and under ‘Our Vision’

    ”1. The UK cares about the death penalty because: Promoting human rights and democracy overseas is a priority for HMG. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle because it undermines human dignity; there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value; and any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable.”

    We thank you for hearing our plea.

    Yours sincerely

    etc etc

  4. hayate said on December 11th, 2010 at 8:42pm #

    Shouldn’t Iraq being hanging blair, netanyahoo, lieberman (both), bush, cheney, those [cough] Brit public skool boi brothers whose names begin with a “m”, the various western media moguls and several thousand other modern day nazis whose actions and words murdered more than a million Iraqis?

    Those are hangings I could heartily and enthusiastically endorse, even though I object to capital punishment for humans and other living creatures.

  5. hayate said on December 11th, 2010 at 8:44pm #

    Sorry, make that several hundred thousand modern day nazis whose actions and words murdered more than a million Iraqis?

  6. mary said on December 28th, 2010 at 9:12am #

    We hear that Mr Tariq Aziz is due to be hanged. Pleas for clemency sent by us to Hague, representing the Invaders and Occupiers of Iraq, and to Archbishop Rowan Williams representing the Church of England (Mr Aziz is a Christian) have been met with silence. You might think and expect that Church and State are seperate entities in the UK but NO.

    The letter to the Archbishop was acknowledged by a Mr Tim Livesey and I have been looking him up.


    ‘The irony is that, at the highest level, Dr Williams has advisers equal to, if not superior to, those of Lord Carey. Chief among these is Tim Livesey, his secretary for public affairs. A father of five and a Roman Catholic, Mr Livesey succeeded Jeremy Harris, a man who shared the contempt for many journalists that they had for him, and who went on to work in a similar role at Oxford University.

    Mr Livesey worked previously as public affairs adviser to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and before that served in Tony Blair’s Government, working in information and public diplomacy policy. He unquestionably has the abilities, contacts and intellect to extract Dr Williams …… ‘


    Tim Livesey joins Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s team

    posted on 28 January 2002

    Tim Livesey joins Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s team of personal staff coming to Archbishop’s House on loan from the Foreign Office where he has worked since 1987. Following postings in Morocco, Nigeria and Paris, where he was head of Press and Public Affairs, Tim has spent the last eighteen months on secondment to the Downing St Press Office.

    Aged 42 he is married with five children.

    Could you make it up?