Asked for a reaction to a statement by the new Iraqi Security Adviser suggesting that Saddam Hussein could face the death penalty, the PMOS said that as we had made clear to the Iraqi Government, and indeed other Governments, we were opposed to the use of the death penalty. That said, Iraq now had a sovereign Government and we had to respect that. It was encouraging to see that they were taking the job of governing the country seriously, as demonstrated by the CPA sites in Nazariah and other areas were being handed over to local government and the CPA site in Kut being handed over to the local police. Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that using the death penalty on Saddam Hussein could make a martyr out of him, the PMOS said that we had repeatedly expressed our view on the death penalty. Ultimately, however, this was an issue for the Iraqi Government. It was encouraging that the Iraqi Prime Minister and other Iraqi Ministers had underlined that there would be a transparent judicial process. That was very different to the justice system under the previous regime. Asked if it was fair to say that despite his objections, the matter was out of the Prime Minister’s hands, the PMOS said that we had made our position clear and the Iraqi Government was well aware of it. Asked to clarify the British Government’s position, the PMOS said that we were opposed to the death penalty. However, its use was a matter for the sovereign Iraqi Government and the outcome of the judicial process. The important point, however, was the fact that a judicial process was actually taking place and that it would be transparent.
Asked if Downing Street was concerned about the legal position of British troops in Iraq in the light of the fact that the new Iraqi Government had decided that no blanket immunity would be given to foreigners under Iraqi law, the PMOS referred journalists to the Foreign Office for a detailed response to the question.
Asked if the Prime Minister had replied to the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the PMOS said no. He would consider what they had written and would reply in due course. As had been widely reported, the Prime Minister had expressed, and continued to express, his abhorrence at any mistreatment of prisoners. It was also fair to point out that investigations into the allegations had already started before the cases had become public knowledge. In addition, the Prime Minister believed that the positive work of our troops in Iraq, which was recognised by the Iraqi Government, should not be obscured by the abuses – which we clearly condemned – that had been carried out by just a few people. Asked if the Prime Minister believed the letter to be unhelpful, the PMOS said that the Archbishops were just as entitled as anyone else to express their opinions. Equally, the Prime Minister had made it clear that he condemned any abuse of prisoners and believed that it was important for the allegations to be investigated properly, as indeed was happening at the current time. Moreover, he remained strongly of the view that the positive work being done by our troops in Iraq should not be obscured by the mistreatment of prisoners which had been carried out by only a few people.
Asked for a reaction to the claim by the mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle that her son had been treated ‘like a piece of meat’, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to use the press briefing to respond directly to a grieving mother who had lost her son in such tragic circumstances. It would be better for her to be allowed to express her grief in her own way without public controversy getting in the way.
Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news
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