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Middle East Transparent - July 27, 2008 di Matteo Mecacci* Since the 6th of July, Marco Pannella - Member of the European Parliament and President of the Nonviolent Radical Party - has been on a hunger strike to try to halt the much anticipated death sentence and possible immediate execution of the former Iraqi Vice-Prime Minister of Saddam Hussein’s decades-long regime, Mr. Tareq Aziz. An international appeal with this objective, that has been endorsed by hundreds of Parliamentarians, from Italy and the European Parliament, has been also launched. Why this international mobilization and the resort to an hunger strike to save the life of one of the figures most responsible for the crimes and atrocities perpetrated by the Iraqi regime? The reasons are clear. What has been taking place in Iraq for Tareq Aziz over the last years is a bogus trial, as stated by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detentions. After one of his lawyers was killed and another one fled Iraq fearing assassination - as happened to Saddam Hussein’s lawyer - Tareq Aziz has been deprived of legal defense, and the requests of international lawyers to assist him have been rejected. Now he faces allegations that have not been seriously scrutinized and it is clear that a death sentence is in the making for him. After the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Resolution on the "Moratorium on the use of the death penalty" last December, it is essential, especially for Iraq, to stop the killings sanctioned by the State in order to stop the cycle of violence and revenge that capital executions provoke. As it is clear for the case of the former Yugoslavia, the Rwanda and Sierra Leone only trials conducted by international tribunals that are in line with the standards of fair trial can effectively contribute to reconciliation and peace among warring parties. In addition to these considerations, executing Tareq Aziz would mean shutting the mouth to one of the politicians who knows more about the many crimes committed and ordered by Saddam Hussein, and about the international connections that have allowed that regime to prosper for decades. Also, Tareq Aziz was the main negotiator for the regime in the weeks that preceded the beginning of the war. It is now clear that over those weeks Saddam Hussein was offered the chance to leave Iraq and go into exile to avoid the war. The United Arab Emirates were negotiating with this objective and the revelations published by El Pais on 26 September 2007 of the minutes of a meeting that took place on February 22, 2003 at Crawford, Texas, between President Bush and the Spanish Prime Minister Jose’ Marie Aznar, make it evident that Saddam was seriously considering such an option, while President Bush dismissed it and subsequently decided to go to war. While US institutions have been investigating many aspects of the reasons – and lies - that led the US Government to launch the military attack against Saddam, we need to find an answer of why President Bush decided not to seriously pursue the option of the exile for Saddam Hussein. The Nonviolent Radical Party, was conducting an international campaign with that objective at the time, that was supported by Parliamentry motions approved by the Italian Parliament. We calls on all interested parties to ask the same questions and try to provide an answer. Matteo Mecacci, MP, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies

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