From Ed Morrisey :
Two of the remaining men on the execution list in Iraq for crimes against humanity in the Saddam Hussein regime were executed overnight, ending speculation on when the Nouri al-Maliki government would proceed with the hangings. The Iraqis forced witnesses to pledge to behave themselves, but one of the defendants lost his head, literally:
American military officials, who had custody of Mr. Hussein, were particularly upset and pushed hard to ensure that the execution of his co-defendants, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, former head of the Mukhabarat secret police and the younger half-brother of Mr. Hussein, and Awad Hamad al-Bandar, who was chief judge of the revolutionary court under Mr. Hussein, was carried out properly.
The government spokesman who announced the executions, which took place at 3 a.m., Bassam al-Husseini, said both the executioners and the witnesses had to sign statements promising to behave in a dignified manner.
In what government officials called a “rare incident,” the head of Mr. Tikriti was severed from his body by the noose as it snapped tight around his neck.
In rare cases, a hanging can turn into a decapitation, which apparently was what happened to Saddam's half-brother. The BBC reported that the news of the decapitation got released by the government in order to head off certain criticism over the incident, which no doubt would have multiplied exponentially if the Iraqis had tried to hide the incident. Barzan ran the Mukhabarat, the secret police that killed, maimed, and tortured hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to keep Saddam in power, and while the decapitation was a particularly gruesome manner in which to die, it shouldn't outweigh the despicable manner in which Barzan maintained his power.
Now the human rights groups will come out and complain about the fate of these men with a good deal more feeling than they ever complained about the fate of their many victims.