February 01, 2006

Saddam's Show Trial

A nice wrap from Gwynne Dyer at SMH, who argues that Saddam is being tried on a minor issue in a kangaroo court so that he can be executed before any more embarrassing links with the USA are made public:
It is easy to tell the difference between the trial of Saddam Hussein and the Nuremberg tribunal. That was a grave and dignified affair; Saddam's trial is more like a French farce, with a large and confusing cast of characters who rush onto the stage to deliver a few lines and then vanish again. But it's a pretty black comedy: seven people associated with the trial, including two defence lawyers, have been assassinated since it began on October 19, and another defence lawyer has fled Iraq in fear of his life.

The court has been in session for only eight days since October, and the last day was the worst yet. The new chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, took over last Sunday with a heavy hand. Within an hour he had one of the defendants, Saddam's brother-in-law Barzan al-Tikriti, ejected from the court for complaining about his health care (he has cancer), and then expelled his lawyer, as well.

When the other defence lawyers walked out in sympathy, the chief judge ruled that they would not be allowed back and appointed different lawyers to conduct the defence. And when Saddam rejected those court-appointed lawyers and made to leave, he was physically restrained by the guards - and then the judge ordered him to leave. It's hard to muster any sympathy for the old tyrant, but the courtroom is a zoo.

The former US attorney-general Ramsay Clark has called the trial "lawless". It is on its third chief judge, the first having resigned two weeks ago because of official criticism he was being too meticulous about Saddam's rights; the second having effectively been fired after a few days when it came out he was a former Baathist.

The new chief judge certainly does not have that problem. In fact, Abdel-Rahman is a Kurd from Halabja, where Saddam is accused of having killed thousands of people in a poison-gas attack in 1988. It's a bit like having a concentration-camp survivor as chief judge at Nuremberg - poetic justice, perhaps, but liable to generate considerable doubts about the fairness and impartiality of the court.

However, Saddam is not being tried for the atrocity at Halabja, nor indeed for any other crime that the world had heard about before this trial: the aggression against Iran, for example, or the slaughter of the Shias who responded to George Bush snr's summons to revolt at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Those topics are off-limits because, in one way or another, they implicate the US in his crimes.

Instead, he is being tried for the torture and execution of 148 people, whom he suspected of being involved in an assassination attempt against him, in the village of Dujail in 1982. In theory, he might be tried later for some of his larger crimes, but that won't happen in practice because the new Iraqi law decrees that all appeals must be completed and a death sentence carried out within 30 days of the accused being found guilty.

No comments:


Blog Archive