Saddam Hussein

– in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 16th June 2004.

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Photo of Lord Sandberg Lord Sandberg Liberal Democrat 2:30 pm, 16th June 2004

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the United States or coalition authorities about the whereabouts and status of Saddam Hussein and the legal procedures envisaged for bringing him to trial.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we consult regularly with the United States and other coalition countries both within the CPA and directly between our capitals on a wide variety of issues concerning Iraq, including detainees and future judicial proceedings against them.

Saddam Hussein is being held by the United States in a secure location. The US announced, when Saddam Hussein was captured, that he has the status of a prisoner of war under the third Geneva Convention. The Iraqi authorities envisage bringing Saddam Hussein to trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal. The US and Iraqi authorities are in discussion about the handover of Saddam Hussein and other detainees.

Photo of Lord Sandberg Lord Sandberg Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. Saddam Hussein has been in custody for something like half a year. He is, I think, a prisoner of the coalition rather than just of the United States. We understand that US intelligence personnel have had access to him. God knows what they have learnt: perhaps that there never were any weapons of mass destruction. Can the Minister tell us what access to him has been given to British security services?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, Saddam Hussein is being held as a prisoner of war by the US. The briefing I have on access to him states that the International Committee of the Red Cross visited him in April and May.

Photo of Lord Clinton-Davis Lord Clinton-Davis Labour

My Lords, what assurances, if any, have been given by the authorities in Iraq, a country where normally capital punishment is applied in cases of this kind? Further, what assurances have been given that capital punishment will not be applied in this case, however heinous the alleged behaviour of the person concerned may have been?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, my noble friend is well aware that the UK opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle. We note that the Iraqi justice Minister, Malik Dohan al-Hassan, has said that he would like to see the reintroduction of the death penalty. If the interim Iraqi Government reintroduce the death penalty, we will lobby them to abolish it, as we do with all retentionist states.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that as Britain is part of the Coalition Provisional Authority, we have some standing regarding the future of Saddam Hussein? Are we happy for the decision on what happens to him to be left purely to the Iraqi Government after 30 June, or do we think that since this was international intervention in Iraq, international law and the law of the UN need to be taken into account?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I reiterate that it is for the United States and the Iraqi authorities to determine when he should be handed over.

Noble Lords:

No.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we are aware that they are in discussion over this.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, my noble friend will recall that Saddam Hussein was responsible for an act of hostage-taking in 1991 during the course of the first Gulf War, which is an offence under international law. Is it the intention of anyone to prosecute him on that issue?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I cannot give my noble friend a detailed answer on that question.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister, International Affairs, Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, it appears that there is some difference of view between Mr Iyad Allawi and the Iraqi Government designate on the one hand and the Coalition Provisional Authority on the other as to whether he should be handed over by 30 June. One side says that he should be, and we understand that the Americans are saying that he should not be. Further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, what is our view? We are a key member of the coalition; we must have a view on that rather sensitive and immediate matter. What is it?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, there is no difference between what the Iraqi Prime Minister and the US President are saying on handing over Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Prime Minister has confirmed that criminal proceedings will be brought against Saddam Hussein and President Bush has confirmed that the US will pass Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi authorities to face criminal prosecution. We believe, speaking for our own UK prisoners of war, that in accordance with the third Geneva Convention, the obligation to release and repatriate prisoners of war arises with the end of active hostilities, which we believe will be 30 June.

Noble Lords:

This side!

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in my opinion Saddam Hussein is very lucky that he has been classed as a PoW? Who decided that he was going to be a PoW and who decided that the people in Guantanamo Bay are not PoWs?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the discussions between the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi interim government have decided the status of Saddam Hussein. I do not have briefing on Guantanamo Bay.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Minister, Home Affairs, Shadow Minister, Welsh Affairs

My Lords, will there be a new criminal code and a new criminal process in position on 1 July, or will Saddam Hussein be tried under the criminal code and process of his own regime?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the precise details of his trial have yet to be decided.

Photo of Lord Morris of Aberavon Lord Morris of Aberavon Labour

My Lords, why is this a matter for the United States and not for the coalition?