Howard welcomes Saddam verdict

“The whole process of the trial is a sign of democratic hope and I believe the world should see it as such,” Mr Howard told the Nine Network.

“There’s something heroic about a nation that is going through all the pain and difficulty as Iraq is, yet still struggles to give this monster a fair trial.

“That is a country worth supporting. That is a new Iraq,” he said.

Mr Howard has maintained more than 1,000 Australian troops in Iraq despite calls from the opposition for them to be brought home.

Mr Howard said he did not believe Saddam’s sentence would lead to further violence and danger for Australian soldiers in Iraq.

“I don’t believe it will have any particular impact on the safety or otherwise of the safety of Australian troops,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the most important thing was that Saddam Hussein had been given a fair and transparent trial.

“They could’ve easily allowed him to be arbitrarily executed as has happened in so many other countries, yet no, he could’ve been shot … or something like that, but no, they were determined to have a transparent trial they were determined to demonstrate to the world that there was a new Iraq,” he said.

Mr Howard made it clear that, like US President George W. Bush, he believes the verdict against Saddam vindicates the invasion.

The prime minister said he was opposed to capital punishment, but could not govern what another country did.

“What other countries do with the death penalty is other countries’ business. What we do in Australia is never impose it and I will always oppose the imposition of the death penalty in my own country,” he said.

However the death penalty is not the real issue here, Mr Howard said.

“The real issue is that he was tried in an open, transparent fashion and one of the great marks of democratic society is due process sand the rule of law and this mass murderer was given due process,” he said.

Death sentence condemned

But Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said the government’s failure to object to
Saddam’s death sentence will make it harder for it to object when Australians face a similar punishment overseas.

Senator Nettle welcomed the public trial but said the Greens did not support the death penalty under any circumstances.

“The death penalty is motivated by a sense of revenge rather than a sense of justice,” she said.

Senator Nettle said it was an ongoing issue that the government supported the death penalty in some circumstances, but not others.

“That means that when Australians face the death penalty overseas, it’s very hard for the Australian government to argue that they shouldn’t face the death penalty,” she said.

“There needs to be more pressure from the international community to ensure that the Iraqi justice system doesn’t have the death penalty as one of the mechanisms they use.

“It does create problems for Australians to have the government support the death penalty. It creates problems for young Australians who might find themselves facing the death penalty to have the government supporting this death penalty.”

Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett also objected to the sentence.

“In my view it’s simply a matter that the death penalty is wrong. I don’t think there is any need to start saying it’s wrong for second-guessing reasons like it will lead to upheavals or anything else,” he said.

“It’s wrong in pretty much all circumstances, and the time to say so is when it’s with a character who is so totally, utterly unsympathetic as Saddam Hussein,” he said.