Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Execution or political assassination?

What can we learn about the death penalty from the report below? Note the contention of the defendant's son that his father was the victim of a "political assassination." Note also that the trial court sentence of life imprisonment was overruled on appeal as being too light. I also find it interesting that the Prime Minister's adviser not only spoke about how terrified the defendant was as he was led to the gallows, but also opined that the execution was not marred by unseemly problems. Does the Iraqi government always get it right? Does any government always get it right? The whole thing is so macabre that I am left without anything more to say.

SADDAM Hussein's vice-president was hanged yesterday despite protests by human rights groups that the evidence was weak and the sentence unfair. Taha Yassin Ramadan, the highest-ranking person from Saddam's government to be executed after the former president, was fearful as he was led to the gallows, said Bassam Ridha, adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"He was scared, terrified, very terrified," Mr Ridha said. However, Mr Ridha said the hanging was not plagued by the problems that marred the executions of Saddam and his half-brother, which outraged Iraqis* * * *

Ramadan was convicted in November along with six others, including Saddam, for his role in the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiites in a small town north of Baghdad after an assassination attempt on the Iraqi president.

The trial court that sentenced Saddam to death sentenced Ramadan to life in prison, but an appeals court ruled the punishment was too light. The trial court then sentenced him to death last month. Despite being a senior official in the Saddam regime, Ramadan was a relatively minor figure in the trial. The accusations against him largely centred on his order that orchards and fields in the Dujayl area be bulldozed, and evidence was presented about his participation in meetings with other leaders who were more culpable in the massacres* * * *

"The trial was riddled with flaws and didn't meet international standards," said Sara Dareshori, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch in New York. Ramadan's son, Ahmad, said his father would be buried in the area of the Iraqi city of Tikrit near Saddam's burial place.

"It was not an execution. It was a political assassination," Ramadan's son told al-Jazeera television by telephone from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Skadden, Arps does some good!

I love seeing press releases like this one. All too often they do not get picked up and reported anywhere. Here, they are headlines!
LOS ANGELES, March 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Public Counsel, the largest probono public interest law firm in the world, announced today that it will name its nationally recognized Guardianship & Conservatorship Clinic in honor of the international law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, which made a gift of $200,000 to endow the program. The Clinic will now be known as the Skadden, Arps' Guardianship & Conservatorship Clinic.
Hats off to Skadden, Arps.

Friday, March 09, 2007

More dangerous vilification of Gitmo lawyers

Here is some dangerous rhetoric from a Wall Street Journal commentary regarding legal services provided by Shearman & Sterling to a former Guantanamo detainee:
Shearman & Sterling lawyers aren't hucksters crassly promoting a cheap product; they are sworn officers of the court volunteering to represent alien enemy combatants in a time of war, interjecting themselves in cases that affect how American soldiers on the battlefield do their job. It is one thing to take these cases in order to achieve the proper balance between due process concerns and unprecedented national security issues. It is another to hire PR and marketing consultants to create image makeovers for suspected al Qaeda financiers, foot soldiers, weapons trainers and bomb makers, all of which is financed by millions of dollars from a foreign country enmeshed in the anti-American, anti-Israel elements of Middle East politics.
Please note my emphasis upon the word "suspected" in the excerpt above. Our legal system is just that--a system. How about waiting until a suspect is convicted before vilifying everyone in sight? Maybe the government never gets it wrong, and maybe some citizens have crystal balls which accurately tell them in advance who is guilty and who is not, but I don't think so. There's nothing even remotely wrong with allowing "suspected" enemy combatants to retain whatever lawyers or other professionals they want. This sounds like Cully Stimson all over again, only this time voicing an objection to lawyers and professionals representing paying clients who are wildly unpopular. The day when "suspects" are denied rights to counsel and vigorous rehabilitation of their impugned reputations may be just around the corner.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Help With The "Walter Reed" Problem

There is no excuse for allowing any single one of our fallen heroes to slip through the cracks of bureaucratic stupidity. These young men and women are all volunteers. They deserve at least the A-1 care that each of our elected officials and civil servants get.All of our Congressional Representatives and Senators should quit posturing and authorize immediately the following:
  • Include any member of the armed services serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who has been injured or contracted an illness in the line of duty in the Congressional Health Care Program; and
  • Provide each such member with a volunteer advocate who is an experienced attorney, trained in healthcare law who can help the member steer through any remaining bureaucratic bullsh**.
  • Benjamin Franklin Legal Foundation is now recruiting volunteers for the advocacy program, whether or not Congress acts on the first part of this suggestion.

Please let me know by email or comment if you are willing to help by publicizing this idea or otherwise.