UN rights expert calls for probe into killing of Saddam Hussein’s defence lawyer

Leandro Despouy

23 June 2006 – A United Nations expert on human rights and legal systems today called on the Iraqi Government to launch an independent investigation into the killing of a lawyer working for the defence team of former President Saddam Hussein.

Strongly condemning the assassination, Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said he was particularly concerned at allegations that the police forces might have been involved in the crime, in which Khamis al-Obeidi was shot to death Wednesday after being abducted from his Baghdad home.

“This is the third killing of a member of Saddam Hussein's defence team since the trial started in October last year,” according to formal statement in which the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released Mr. Despouy’s views.

In that light, the statement said that the Special Rapporteur reiterated his criticisms of the Iraqi High Tribunal, namely, that its jurisdiction is limited to certain groups of individuals, that it was set up in the context of an armed occupation, that it violates the right to be tried by an impartial tribunal and under those conditions is empowered to impose the death penalty.

“The Special Rapporteur wishes to reiterate his support for the establishment of an international tribunal to ensure that the entire spectrum of barbaric crimes committed in Iraq are prosecuted in a comprehensive, independent and impartial manner, in full respect of the right to truth of all victims and of the international community at large,” the statement said.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid, independent rights experts with a mandate from the former Commission on Human Rights, which is being replaced by the newly-created Human Rights Council.

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