Trial of Saddam Hussein to be televised

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Saddam Hussein during his first appearance before the Iraqi Special Tribunal
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

As the start date of the former Iraqi leader's trial approaches, the chief judge of the tribunal has stated that the fate of Saddam Hussein will be broadcast on live television. In a statement to CNN, Iraqi national security advisor Muwaffaq Rubaie said that "...this is going to be a fair, just trial with a defense counsel in there, with a proper prosecuting council as well there..."

The first charge, filed earlier this month, alleges Hussein's responsibility in the 1982 killing of 143 residents of Dujail, in which he was the target of a botched assassination attempt. The details of other charges are unclear.

The tribunal, which was set up in December 2003, has been marred by delays. There are accusations of bias from the defense council of Hussein, as well as fears for the judges' safety which have consistently pushed the trial back. The defense team has challenged the tribunal's legitimacy and stated they have not been given enough time to prepare.

This concern has been echoed in the past by some human rights groups, "It's really critical that it's done right," says Michael Posner, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. "For those who believe in international justice and accountability for human rights crimes, the trial of Saddam Hussein is a rare opportunity to test the system and make it work."

Many Iraqis, particularly Shia and Kurdish, want to see Hussein tried for chemical gas attacks on the Kurds in the 1980s. In 1988, one of these chemical attacks killed as many as 5,000 people. As well, many Iraqis want Hussein punished for reprisals against a Shia uprising in 1991.

The crimes that the special tribunal will focus on include:

  • A mortar attack on the city of Kirkuk.
  • The killing of 8,000 members of the Barzani tribe, a Kurdish community.
  • The invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
  • Crimes against secular and religious parties.
  • Forced emigration of thousands of Kurds from northern Iraq into Iran.

Hussein's strategy for defense was outlined by defense team member Abdul Haq al-Ani, as reported by Dan Senor, as consisting of four "pillars":

  • The first argues that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and as such, Saddam Hussein is still legally president. If so, then under the Saddam era constitution he is entitled to immunity.
  • The second suggests that Hussein's alleged war crimes were no different than George W. Bush's response to 9/11: A response to insurrection.
  • The third pillar is to call Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld to testify. It will attempt to highlight the support the United States gave to Iraq in the 1980s.
  • The fourth will be to present an unflattering portrayal of American foreign policy.

The trial is set to begin on Wednesday, October 19th.


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