People pray beside the coffins of Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, who were executed at dawn Monday in Baghdad. ((Bassem Daham/Associated Press))

Iraqi government video of the hangings of two of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants shows the men arriving at the gallows and being hooded before their executions.

Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar were executed around 3 a.m. local time Monday for crimes against humanity.

The official video of the hanging, shown to journalists later in the day, shows the two men in orange jumpsuits with black hoods placed on their heads as they reached the gallows. Five masked men surrounded them.

After the trap doors open, al-Bandar's body is shown hanging from the rope, while Ibrahim's body is shown lying on the floor.

In confirming the executions, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh saidIbrahim's head had been severed in what he called "a rare incident."


Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh speaks during a news conference in Baghdad on Monday. ((Ali Abbas/Associated Press))

"Those present signed documents pledging not to violate the rules or otherwise face legal penalties. All the people present abided by the government's rule and there were no violations," he said. "No one shouted slogans or said anything that would taint the execution. None of those charged were insulted.

"We will not release the video, but we want to show the truth," al-Dabbagh said. "The Iraqi government acted in a neutral way."

Al-Dabbagh claimed the gallows were constructed in keeping with international standards set by human rights organizations.

But Param-Preet Singh, counsel for the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, said she did not think there were any international recognized standards for hanging because human rights organizations are generally opposed to the death penalty.

"Under no circumstances can an execution be in accordance with human rights standards," she said. "There's a move away from executions in general ... which shows there are no international standards."

Egyptian forensics expert Fakhri Mohammed Saleh told Al-Jazeera television that hanging can result in decapitation if the rope is not appropriate or there are inexperienced people carrying out the executions.

Saleh said the decapitation was"a grave mistake" because the purpose of execution is to end a liferather than torture a person.

Al-Jazeera reported that the bodies were taken to Saddam's hometown of Ouja, near Tikrit, about 130 kilometres north of Baghdad, for burial.

The executions took place in the same Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters building in north Baghdad where the former dictator was hangeda little over two weeks ago.

There doesn't appear to be any indication of sectarian taunting on the video, as appeared in cellphone videos of Saddam's execution that showed up on the internet and drew international condemnation.

Lawyer 'stunned' by hangings

Giovanni De Stefano, a member of the men's defence team, said he heard the news from a colleague in Baghdad.

"I was stunned because we were assured there would be no executions until at least the 25th of January," he told CBC Newsworld from his office in Rome.

"They were killed during a period that they still had an appeal pending and that is murder, not execution," he said.

De Stefano said he plans to ask the International Criminal Court in The Hague to open an investigation into the deaths.

Khalaf al-Olayan, a leader of themain Sunni bloc in parliament, accused the Shia-led government of breaking the law.

"It is impossible for a person to be decapitated during a hanging," he told Al-Jazeera television. "This shows that they have mutilated the body, and this is a violation of the law."

The two men were to have been hanged along with Saddam on Dec. 30, but Iraqi authorities decided to execute Saddam alone on what national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called a "special day."

And there have been others who wanted to delay the proceedings.

"In my opinion we should wait," Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had said last Wednesday at a news conference with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. "We should examine the situation."

With files from the Associated Press