Saddam Hussein has been executed, according to numerous media reports. A few hours ago, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington denied a last-minute application for a stay of execution filed by Hussein’s lawyers.
The application was filed at 1 p.m. this afternoon by the law firm of Gilman & Associates, who argued that a stay was justified because Hussein was a named defendant in a civil lawsuit before the D.C. district court, “but his incarceration has prevented him from receiving proper due process notice of his rights to defend himself and his estate.” Military officials said Hussein could not meet with his lawyers to discuss the civil suit until January 4, which obviously is a moot point now.
The civil suit was filed by Haider Aziz Al-Sayed Jassim Ali Rasheed, an Iraqi now living in the U.S., seeking civil and punitive damages from Hussein and other former Iraqi officials under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act. Haider’s father, a dissident writer, was murdered by the Hussein regime.
The application said that the U.S. military, which maintained “physical custody of Mr. Hussein as a prisoner of war,” had denied Hussein’s lawyers access to their client so that he could be informed of the civil lawsuit:
“[Defendant] is not challenging his sentence of death in this Court, but he is asking the Court to delay that sentence to protect his right of due process and rights under the Geneva Conventions, and this Court has jurisdiction to assure that whatever legal rights Mr. Hussein has are protected.”
After a telephone hearing before Judge Kollar-Kotelly, Hussein’s application was treated as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court said it lacked jurisdiction to entertain such a petition because Hussein was not actually “in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States.” Although members of the U.S. military had custody, it was “pursuant to their authority as members of the Multi-National Force-Iraq,” which derives its “ultimate authority from the United Nations and the MNF-I member nations acting jointly, not from the United States acting alone.”