What are your impressions of Saddam's trial to date?
On January 25, 2006
How can you have a "trial" when the verdict has already been determined?
Can anyone imagine the outcry if Saddam Hussein was found "not
guilty" of the charges against him? Can anyone imagine such a
verdict being handed down?
First, the prosecution would be called incompetent. The jurists
would be stoned -- maybe even literally.
Having watched some (not all) of Frontlines Saddam's Road To
Hell (a fair and balanced title if ever there was one), I considered
the following: What is the penalty for treason in the U.S.- the most
democratic and just society in the world? The answer, of course, is
Frontline noted that the Kurds took up arms against Hussein's army
during the Iran-Iraq war. Consider the following: Mexican-Americans
take up arms against the U.S. in a war against Canada. What do you
imagine Americans would do or want to do to the Mexican-Americans
during or at the conclusion of such a war? Do you think they would
just welcome them back into society?
The same can be said for the murder of innocent civilians during
Hussein's crusade against the Kurds. Apparently, the charge is that
he used "chemical weapons," not that he killed civilians. If
"killing civilians" were against the law, our president would have to
answer for the deaths of an estimated 30,000 Iraqi civilians since
2003. That's not going to happen.
Is this to say that all of the charges against Hussein are bogus?
Not at all. But it is important to keep some balance. Remember, the
U.S. did not say "boo" when Latin Americans by the thousands were
disappearing. Neither would it likely have invaded Iraq if Hussein
had just agreed to stay within his borders and send us the oil.
That's the rotten truth, whether we speak it or not.
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On January 25, 2006
Iraqi scholar Faleh Jabar
I have been very disappointed with the trial as a whole so far. The proceedings have made it seem like the prosecutors and judges had not done their homework. I really feel quite miserable about the whole process, frankly. I was initially very hopeful that we would be able to recover all of these important facts about the atrocities committed under Saddam's rule. But now I am really beginning to wonder whether the whole process may actually be counterproductive.
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On January 19, 2006
Iraqi Blogger Iraq the Model
When the American troops captured Saddam
back in December 2003, I thought that he was gone forever, and I wasnt
that interested in putting him to trial or how long such a trial could
take because back then, I thought that he could no longer affect the
situation in Iraq.
Later, I discovered I was wrong about
this; I began to realize that a good deal of the insurgency is fueled
by the illusion that keeping pressure on the Iraqi government and coalition
forces can reverse history and bring Saddam and the Baath Party back
My attitude began to change, and I started
to believe that bringing Saddam before a court of law and giving him
the punishment he deserves is of great importance to Iraq and that this
can wipe out the illusions of many insurgents and terrorists.
The trial began a few months ago, and
it represented something quite new to Iraqis and to the rest of nations
in the country. Of course, there were other rulers in the Middle East
who were put to trial, but those trials were led by the generals or
gangs that took over with coups.
That type of older trial usually didnt
take more than minutes -- no lawyers, no media watching and the former
ruler would be soon executed with a bullet in the back of his head or
was dragged in the streets.
This trial is different; we see a full
defense team with lawyers from Iraq as well as foreign ones, we see
the defendant speak and object to what the prosecution and witnesses
say. And we see a judge who is calm, gentle and experienced.
Many of us in Iraq felt that Judge Rizgar
showed weakness; he was harshly criticized by the people and politicians
for his flexibility and lack of control over the proceedings of
I may agree with some of that criticism,
but I also strongly believe that the judge has a strong point in the
way hes been acting. Hes telling us that law doesnt have to
look brutal to be strong and that allowing the defendant to speak doesnt
mean that hes going to be set free!
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On January 19, 2006
Iraqi Blogger 24 Steps to Liberty
I need to find a way to secure my life first and then worry about what might happen to Saddam.
As an average Iraqi, who mixes with Iraqis
every day, I would like to present an average Iraqis point of view
of Saddam Husseins trial. Of course, these arent the views of
Since the invasion in 2003, Iraqis have
been waiting for the moment when their dictator of 30 years would be
brought before a court and asked about the crimes he committed against
a huge number of people of all ethnic and religious factions. Iraqis
have also been waiting for his punishment, which everyone agrees should
be the death sentence.
But the awaited trial has taken too long,
and Iraqis have lost trust and interest in its results. Violence has
killed up to 30,000 civilians, thousands of Iraqi security forces and
dozens of clergymen. The unstable environment, daily threats of car
bombs and mortar shells raining on random places, along with kidnappings,
raids and other dangers, make Iraqis feel like crying. But we cannot --
our eyes are all cried out from such a long time of sadness. With all
of these sufferings, the last thing most Iraqis care about now is Saddams
What trial are we talking about?
I recall a friend of mine wondering. I need to find a way to secure
my life first, and then I can worry about what might happen to Saddam.
I noticed that Professor Scharf said
he thinks the judge presiding over Husseins trial is not losing
control of his courtroom and that he is leading a fair trial. This
is exactly what people are talking about in the Iraqi streets since
the trial kicked off. But of course most Iraqis arent interested
in courtroom procedures or anything like that.
What we know is that Saddam Hussein caused
the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, killed hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis in wars and caused the destruction of a third-world
country that was about to embrace modern life in the 1970s. He has left
behind him a huge number of widows, including his own two daughters,
a huge number of orphans and other miseries from which Iraqis still
suffer. That is what Iraqis think of when they think of Saddam. Hence,
if you ask, What do you think of Saddam Husseins trial? to
an average Iraqi anywhere in Baghdad or one of the southern provinces,
the answer would probably be, He shouldnt get this luxurious cell
and a fair trial. He should be killed publicly.
That is what I hear when I chat with
people about the trial. In the Iraqi street, the trial is called the
play and the circus.
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On January 14, 2006
Professor Michael Scharf
Why the trial is not a judicial train wreck
Many Western commentators have described
the first days of the Saddam Hussein trial as a judicial train wreck,
presided over by a weak judge who has lost control of the courtroom.
But the trial should not be judged though
the lens of what we are used to in the West. We must remember that this
is an Iraqi tribunal even though it employs the definitions of crimes
and the due-process rights developed by international criminal tribunals.
In the Iraqi legal tradition, lawyers employ a far more boisterous courtroom
demeanor than we are used to in the West, often shouting at opposing
counsel, the witnesses and the judges. Those who are used to this system
dont perceive such courtroom behavior as disrespectful or disruptive.
Under the Iraqi civil law inquisitorial system, the defendants as well
as their lawyers are permitted to address the court and the witnesses.
Therefore, presiding Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin is not losing control of
his courtroom when he allows Saddam to frequently address the witnesses
and the court; rather the judge is conducting the trial in accordance
with the system under which he has worked as a judge for 30 years.
Far from a judicial train wreck, in just
five trial days (October 19, November 28, December 5, December 20 and December 21),
the judge has explained the proceedings and rights of the defense, the
prosecutor has completed an opening statement, and 14 witnesses have
testified and been cross-examined by the defense -- a very efficient pace
even by American judicial standards. With 40 witnesses still to go, the
prosecution has already proven the scale of the atrocities, the direct
involvement of several of Saddams co-defendants and the command hierarchy --
the key elements necessary for a conviction in this case. And especially
for those who understand Arabic, the testimony of Saddams victims
has been both moving and compelling.
Not everything has gone smoothly, though.
The biggest setback was the assassination of two of the 12 defense lawyers
just after the trial began in October. This was a terrible tragedy,
and it raised the question of whether Baghdad was too unsafe to hold
this trial. But trials of terrorists, drug lords and warlords have been
conducted elsewhere in the world amidst similar security threats. The
problem here was that the defense lawyers had rejected the Iraqi and
U.S. governments offer of security, leaving them completely vulnerable
to attack. Before the trial resumed on November 28, Judge Rizgar had succeeded
in crafting a compromise under which the defense counsel have been assigned
heavily armed personal body guards of their choosing, and their families
have been moved out of the country for their protection, which should
ensure their safety for the remainder of the trial.
Judge Rizgars other challenge has been
to keep the televised proceedings moving forward while the defendants
and their lawyers try every gimmick in the book to disrupt the trial
and distract public attention from the testimony. Unlike Judge Richard May,
who presided over the Milosevic trial in The Hague, Judge Rizgar has made
it a point not to raise his voice in the courtroom. Rather, he has remained
calm and patient in the face of the defendants frequent outbursts.
The Western media describes this as losing the battle of the wills,
but in Iraq, Judge Rizgar is seen as demonstrating his fairness, which
is more important to the actual success of the trial.
During the fifth day of the trial, December 21, 2005,
Saddam interrupted the proceedings with the shocking claim that he and
his co-defendants had been tortured by American prison guards several
months before the trial. Judge Rizgar wisely indicated that the claim
would be fully investigated before the trial resumes on January 24, 2006.
Its extremely unlikely that the investigation will substantiate Saddams
claims. During the first four days of the trial, Saddam took the opportunity
to freely air his grievances, but his sole complaints were that he had
not been provided a pen and paper with which to take notes, that he
was given only six cigarettes a day (and did not like the brand), that
he was required to wear the same suit for several days without a clean
change of clothing, and that he was forced to walk up four flights of
stairs rather than take an elevator. Had he been subject to acts of
torture during his pre-trial detention, he certainly would have mentioned
it then, rather than confine his complaints to these minor inconveniences.
In addition, in the months leading up to the trial, Saddam confirmed
on more than one occasion to Investigating Judge Raad Juhi that he
had not been beaten or mistreated while in detention. According to Judge Raad,
had any of the defendants complained earlier of torture or abuse, they
would have been subject to a contemporaneous medical examination to
see if such claims could be substantiated. Finally, Saddams claim
of torture came not at the start of the days proceedings, but followed
harrowing testimony by victims of the torture endured at the hands of
the Baath Party. Seen in this light, Saddams allegations of torture
are likely to be found to be no more than another tactic to distract,
disrupt and derail the trial.
In the weeks ahead, the pace of the trial
will accelerate, with less frequent and shorter adjournments. The prosecution
will continue to prove its case, bringing in documentary, video and
forensic evidence as well as more witnesses. Then it will be the defenses
turn. The defense strategy will be to argue that the Iraqi High Criminal
Court is not a legitimate institution, to argue that Saddam has head
of state immunity and to portray the attack against the town of Dujail
as a lawful effort to root out terrorists and insurgents who had tried
to assassinate him. One thing we can be sure of -- there will be many
more interesting trial moments to come.
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