The Iraqi government has ordered an investigation into the display of abusive behavior at the execution of Saddam Hussein. The former Iraqi dictator was hanged at dawn Saturday by a team of Shiite men wearing ski masks. Video recorded on a cellphone shows guards taunting Hussein in his final moments. Legal observers had called for an independent investigation, but the Iraqi government has appointed the Interior Ministry.
U.S. officials are now claiming they made diligent efforts to delay Hussein’s execution until the final hours of his life. In an interview with The New York Times, officials said they pushed for the delay in part over doubts about the legality of the execution under international law.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting the Iraqi government has made plans to hang two of Hussein’s co-defendants. Hussein’s half-brother, former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, are expected to be put to death on Thursday.
In other news from Iraq, the Iraqi government reported Tuesday more than 12,000 civilians died last year. Half died over the last four months. December was the deadliest month of 2006 with nearly 2,000 dead. The Iraqi government has been accused of underreporting civilian casualties. The United Nations has said last year’s death toll is nearly double the official count. A recent study in the medical journal The Lancet estimated more than 650,000 deaths in Iraq since the U.S. invasion.
In Washington, funeral services were held at the National Cathedral Tuesday for former President Gerald Ford. Dignitaries including former President George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger delivered eulogies. President Bush also spoke.
President Bush: “And so when President Nixon needed to replace a vice president who had resigned in scandal, he naturally turned to a man whose name was a synonym for integrity: Gerald R. Ford. And eight months later, when he was elevated to the presidency, it was because America needed him, not because he needed the office.”
Ford will be buried at a funeral today in his home state of Michigan.
At the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon began his term Tuesday as the new secretary-general.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “I start my duties at a daunting time in international affairs, starting from Darfur to Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, many other crises that trouble our world. From defending human rights and to the need to step up our efforts to implement to reach the target by 2015 of the Millennium Development goals.”
Ban is already facing his first potential crisis over allegations U.N. peacekeepers sexually abused children in Sudan. The Daily Telegraph of London is reporting peacekeepers have been accused of raping and abusing children as young as 12 years old. The U.N. has up to 10,000 military personnel in southern Sudan. The Telegraph says it gathered accounts of abuse from more than 20 victims.
Back in the United States, new details have emerged on the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. On Tuesday, the FBI released documents chronicling more than two dozen incidents. In one case, guards wrapped a prisoner’s head in duct tape after he chanted the Qur’an. In another incident, a female guard was said to have wiped menstrual blood across a prisoner’s face. Military officials and contractors told investigators Pentagon officials — including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — directly approved the interrogation methods. The new documents were released to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is suing Rumsfeld and other officials on behalf of Guantanamo prisoners who say they were abused.
In military news, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has called for a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Writing in The New York Times Tuesday, General John Shalikashvili said the military should welcome any American who is willing and able to serve. Shalikashvili is the highest-ranking retired or active military official to call for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He supported the policy when it was implemented during his first year as Joint Chiefs chair in 1993.
In Massachusetts, lawmakers have approved a measure that could lead to the repeal of the state law allowing same-sex marriage. Massachusetts is the only state in the country where same-sex marriage is legal. On Tuesday, the state Legislature voted to advance a proposed amendment that would overturn the same-sex law. The proposal will go to statewide ballot if it survives another round of voting. More than 8,000 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts since same-sex marriage was legalized there in 2003.
Border authorities are being accused of a new case of anti-Muslim discrimination over the detention and deportation of a German man of Syrian descent last week. The man, Majed Shehadeh, arrived in Las Vegas from Frankfurt on Thursday hoping to surprise his American-born daughter. He was held in a cell for four days before being sent home without explanation.
In Louisiana, the coroner investigating the shooting death of an African-American mayor-elect has ruled the case a suicide. Gerald Washington was found dead on Saturday just days before he was to become the first black mayor of the town of Westlake. Washington’s family has rejected the coroner’s ruling and is calling for a state investigation.
Meanwhile in New Orleans, seven police officers charged in the deadly shooting of two people after Hurricane Katrina surrendered Tuesday. The victims — 40-year-old Ronald Madison and 19-year-old James Brissette — were crossing the Danziger Bridge when they came between a gun battle between a group of armed assailants and the seven officers. Madison — who was mentally handicapped — was shot seven times, including five in his back. Four of the officers are charged with murder and will not be allowed free on bail.
And this update on a story from yesterday’s broadcast: A judge has ruled independent journalist Sarah Olson does not need to testify at Thursday’s pretrial hearing for First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Watada is facing six years in prison over his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Olson is challenging her subpoena to testify based on her interview with Watada earlier this year. On Tuesday, Olson was told she will not need to appear at the pretrial hearing but will remain on the prosecution’s witness list.