The Vatican’s official newspaper on Tuesday decried media images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging as a “spectacle” violating human rights and harming efforts to promote reconciliation in Iraq.
The Vatican, which opposes the death penalty, was among the first voices abroad to denounce Saddam’s execution Saturday, saying then that it was “tragic news,” even in the case of someone guilty of grave crimes, and expressing worry that it could fuel revenge and fresh violence.
Also Tuesday, the Italian government said it will take “formal steps” in a renewed push for a U.N. call for a moratorium on the death penalty. The premier’s office said Italy would seek the support of other countries that oppose capital punishment to put the issue of a moratorium to the U.N. General Assembly.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema has said that Premier Romano Prodi’s government would work for the end of the death penalty worldwide following denunciations across Europe of Saddam’s hanging. Italy and all other European Union countries ban capital punishment.
Italy has lobbied unsuccessfully for U.N. action against the death penalty. Italy is now one of the rotating members of the U.N. Security Council.
The Holy See’s daily, L’Osservatore Romano, lamented that “making a spectacle” of the execution had turned capital punishment into “an expression of political hubris.”
Images on Web sites and TV stations around the world showed the ousted dictator at the gallows with a noose around his neck and other images from the hanging.
[The New York Times was the only major newspaper in the U.S. to feature a photo of Saddam after his hanging on its front page but many others showed him with the noose around his neck.]
The execution “represented, for the ways in which it happened and for the media attention it received, another example of the violation of the most basic rights of man,” L’Osservatore wrote.
The paper added that: “in a country ever more disfigured by every kind of violence, you don’t need arrogant gestures but signals that go in the opposite direction.”
The Iraqi prime minister on Tuesday ordered an investigation into Saddam’s execution in a bid to learn who taunted the former dictator in his final moments and leaked a cell phone video of his death.