On this day 10 years ago, Saddam Hussein was led to the gallows and hanged to death for crimes against humanity during his reign as dictator of Iraq. 

Saddam ruled Iraq with an iron fist from 1979 until he was toppled by a US invasion in April 2003. He was discovered by US special forces in hiding eight months later and tried by an Iraqi special tribunal.

His death by capital punishment came after the tribunal found him guilty of having ordered the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites in a 1982 massacre.  

Although official video only showed the moments before the actual hanging and had sound omitted, amateur footage shot on a mobile phone and uploaded to YouTube showed the hanging from start to finish, with Iraqis jeering Saddam and subsequently celebrating as he fell through the gallows' trapdoor.

International human rights groups had already voiced criticism of Saddam's trial, with Human Rights Watch calling it "a significant step away from the rule of law in Iraq" and Amnesty International saying the trial had been "unfair". 

The leaked amateur footage of the execution added fuel to the fire. Critics said the scene resembled a celebration of bloodlust, and the US president at the time, George W Bush, would later admit that the execution "looked like it was kind of a revenge killing" and that it had "reinforced doubts in people's minds" about the validity of the Iraqi government.

News of Saddam's execution made the front page on December 30 and 31 that year. Photos: Times of Malta digital archivesNews of Saddam's execution made the front page on December 30 and 31 that year. Photos: Times of Malta digital archives

By the end of 2011, the last of the US troops which had invaded Iraq in 2003 were gone. But US President Barack Obama's claims that soldiers were leaving behind a "sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq" proved to be more hopeful than rooted in fact. 

A decade after the execution, the dictator continues to cast a long shadow in his homeland. Iraq remains a fractured nation, with a weak government struggling to expel Islamic State militants from its territory and Sunni, Kurdish and other minorities still unwilling to trust the Shi'ite government led by Haider al-Abadi. 

Even in Washington D.C., memories of Saddam and the aftermath of his rule can be seen to this day. 

Thousands of US troops are back in Iraq in an attempt to help the Iraqi army expel Islamic State and violence remains an everyday occurrence in many parts of Iraq. The complete and utter nation-building failure that followed the 2003 invasion has turned the US' once-bullish attitude towards military intervention on its head, with President-elect Donald Trump having vowed to never again involve the US in any attempts at regime change. 

 

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