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 Talabani fails in bid to secure medical treatment for Barzan Tikriti

 Source : IWPR
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Talabani fails in bid to secure medical treatment for Barzan Tikriti 23.11.2005
By Duraid Salman in Baghdad (ICR No. 153, 23-Nov-05)


President’s Humanitarian Gesture Snubbed
Talabani fails in bid to secure medical treatment for indicted Ba’ath Party official.

The prosecutor trying Saddam Hussein and his former aides has said he will not consider transferring one of the defendants to hospital for cancer treatment, despite an appeal by President Jalal Talabani.

Barzan Tikriti is being held in an Iraqi prison as he awaits trial for committing crimes against humanity. Tikriti, Saddam's half-brother and his former intelligence chief, is charged along with Saddam and five other Ba'ath Party officials with carrying out mass arrests, torturing civilians and killing 148 men in 1982 in the village of Dijail.

The trial briefly opened on October 19 and is expected to resume on November 28.

Tikriti, who was captured by US forces in April 2003, suffers from spinal cancer. He appealed in late October to Iraqi leaders - and particularly Talabani, whom he called "an old friend" - to be transferred to hospital.

Talabani was the only official to call for his release. He said in a statement that the "new Iraq" supports humanitarian principles "that guarantee the right to health care and medical treatment for all of its citizens".

Iraqi President : Jalal Talabani
Photo: Reuters

Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was on the US "most wanted" list.
Former Intelligence chief.
Photo: AP

Jafar al-Musawi, the prosecutor in the trial at the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, said the court ultimately decides whether defendants should be transferred to medical facilities. He indicated that Talabani had no authority in the matter, insisting that “the court decides on the destiny of defendants".

Musawi said Tikriti was being treated in prison and that humanitarian groups and officials had visited him. The prosecutor said the court would evaluate his health and consider transferring him to hospital if he made a formal request and if his condition proved serious.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'afari, who has refused to meet with former high-level Ba'athists, said Tikriti's health should be evaluated to determine if his condition requires treatment outside of prison.

International human rights organisations and some legal experts have expressed concern over the fairness of the tribunal. Many question whether Saddam and his former deputies can receive a fair trial in Iraq. International and local human rights organisations have also criticised Iraqi authorities for inhumane conditions in the country's prisons.

Tikriti's lawyers could not be reached for comment. The defence team for Saddam and his seven former aides has gone into hiding after two of its lawyers, including one of Tikriti's key attorneys, were killed. Another lawyer representing Tikriti sought asylum in Qatar two weeks ago following one of the murders.

The defence team unsuccessfully appealed to the court to delay the trial following the killings. Some were suspicious that the lawyers were attempting to slow down the trial to have more time to prepare.

Qassim al-Sahlani, a politburo member of Ja'afari's Dawa Islamic Party, said the party did not want Tikriti's illness to stall the tribunal. He said if Tikriti receives medical attention, it should be approved by the court and that he should be treated "the same as an average citizen. We do not want any of these tyrants to receive special treatment".

Qasim Dundun, the head of the Turkmen Front's Baghdad branch, was held as a political prisoner under the former regime and said prisoners died because they did not receive medical attention.

He and Sahlani both noted that the former regime did not allow prisoners to receive treatment or even have defence attorneys.

But Dhafir Eedan, a 51-year-old retired police officer, argued that the government needs to respect the rights of all prisoners, including their rights to medical attention.

"The issue should not be used as revenge for what they did," maintained Eedan. "Iraq is witnessing an historic change, and the way it deals with prisoners has to be different as well."

Duraid Salman is an IWPR trainee journalist in Baghdad.   


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