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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 11:12 GMT
Insurgency set to outlive Saddam
By David Loyn
BBC world affairs correspondent

The death of Saddam Hussein is unlikely to have the beneficial effect that such a drastic step should have.

Insurgent in Ramadi
There are fears that Sunni insurgents may win more recruits after Saddam's death

It was the end of an inevitable process that began when Saddam Hussein was found in a "spider hole" on 14 December 2003, but his capacity to upset the plans of his opponents is as strong in death as in life.

Before he fell from power, Saddam Hussein left specific instructions to his supporters.

He knew that they could not defeat the American-led invasion force on the conventional battlefield, so he ordered his men to loot and disrupt the civilian infrastructure and join forces with Islamists rebels.

Those tactics continue to prevent the effective stabilisation of Iraq, and the insurgency now has a momentum of its own that will outlive Saddam.

'Victor's justice'

If anything, his death will tend to strengthen the hand of Sunni insurgents in recruiting people to their cause.

They ask: "What do we have to lose?" as they see their Shia rivals running the armed forces and the police.

For these hardliners, the death of Saddam is "victor's justice", carried out amid the extraordinary facilities of the high-security, sanitised international Green Zone.

The imposition of the death penalty - an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment - in the wake of an unfair trial is indefensible
Human Rights Watch

The transparency of the trial, every stage of which was broadcast, does not change their view.

The new sectarianism, unleashed in earnest after the destruction of the Samarra shrine in February 2006, is now altering the geography of the capital, Baghdad, as militias mark out their zones of influence.

The celebrations in Shia areas at the death of Saddam will only make these divisions worse.

The celebrations of those who do welcome his death are real of course.

No-one can deny the pleasure now felt by many who suffered at the hands of Saddam's tyrannical regime.

In particular, there are genuine celebrations among the Marsh Arabs in the south, who had their way of life destroyed in a genocidal frenzy after their failed uprising in 1991, and the Kurds in the north, always threatened by Saddam.

Fair trial?

But even here, there will be questions over the trial itself.

Human Rights Watch, who observed every day of the process along with another NGO, brought out a harsh verdict on the quality of justice in this case.

Their conclusion was that this was not a fair trial, and the soundness of the verdict is questionable.

In this case, they say "the imposition of the death penalty - an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment - in the wake of an unfair trial is indefensible".

They criticised the management of the trial, protection given to witnesses, the lack of material given to the defence (making this a "trial by ambush"), and prejudicial comments made by Iraqi politicians.

They also criticised the defence for using the courtroom as a political grandstand.

There are also questions over the long and detailed examination of some of the evidence in the Dujail case [for the killing of 148 Shias in the village of that name in the early 1980s], while Saddam's trial for the deaths of far more people in Kurdish areas was rushed through ahead of the execution.

Considering that this was the first trial of this scale since the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II, the disappointment of legal observers that it did not set a higher standard is great.

But then in Iraq, nothing has quite turned out as expected.

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