The Trial at a Glance

Who is in the dock, the charges, the presiding court, and more.

The Defendants

Saddam Hussein

Former Iraqi President. Saddam is expected to be charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression and genocide. He is suspected for ordering or otherwise being involved in the 1982 execution of 143 Iraqi civilians in Dujail following a failed assassination attempt that took place there; the killing of approximately 5,000 Kurds with chemical gas in Halabja in 1988; the killing and deportation of thousands of members of the Kurdish Barzani tribe in the 1980s; the invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990; the draining of the southern rivers and the killing of hundreds of thousands of Marsh Arabs after the 1991 Shi’iah uprisings; and other crimes.

Barzan Ibrahim al–Tikriti

Saddam's half–brother and former head of the Mukhabarat intelligence service. Al–Tikriti is suspected in the torture and murder of thousands of opponents of the regime.

"Chemical" Ali Hassan al–Majid

One of Saddam's cousins and Iraq's defense minister from 1991 to 1995. Al–Majid earned the nickname “Chemical Ali” for ordering chemical weapons attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq in the Anfal campaign in1988. As many as 100,000 Kurds were killed in al–Anfal.

Taha Yassin Ramadan

Former vice–president Ramadan is suspected of involvement in carrying out some of the deadliest operations under Saddam’s regime, including the 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait, the repression of the 1991 Shi’iah uprising, and the 1998 gassing of Kurds in Halabja.

Awad Hamad al–Bandar

Former chief judge of Saddam's Revolutionary Court. Al–Bandar is accused of sentencing to death 143 residents of Dujail after a failed attempt there on Saddam’s life.

Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid, Mizher Abdullah Rawed, Ali Daeem Ali and Mohammed Azawi Ali

Former Ba’ath Party officials. All four of these men held Ba’ath Party positions in the area of Dujail and are accountable for deadly operations there.

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The Tribunal

Five judges preside, led by a chief judge who questions witnesses himself in court. Approximately 50 judges make up the tribunal, all native Iraqis, of mostly Shiite or Kurdish origin. No members of the Ba’ath Party are allowed to serve. Each judge was nominated and vetted by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Five judges will preside over each trial, and nine different judges will preside over each appeal. For security reasons, the names of most of the judges have not been disclosed. Kurdish chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin led the December proceedings. He resigned in mid–January after complaining of political interference with the court. The defense also has the right to call witnesses.

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The Defense Team

Saddam’s defense team is led by Iraqi Khalil Dulaimi and comprises more than 20 lead attorneys from several countries. Outspoken former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark is an advisor.

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The Sentence

If convicted, legal experts predict Saddam will get the death penalty. Some observers worry that political pressure may force his execution before he has been tried for all of his alleged crimes and his victims have had their day in court.

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The Transition of Power

Coalition Provisional Authority

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established on April 21, 2003, as a transitional government for Iraq following the 2003 invasion by multinational Coalition forces that ousted Saddam and the Ba’ath Party from power. For more than a year, the CPA governed Iraq, led by American administrator Paul Bremer. In early June 2004, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a U.S. and British resolution to end the occupation on June 30 and allow Coalition forces to remain behind as peacekeepers. The United States ultimately decided to dissolve the CPA and transfer sovereignty two days early, on June 28, 2004, to foil potential disruptions by insurgents.

Iraqi Governing Council

The IGC was a group of tribal leaders handpicked by the U.S.–led CPA to act as the temporary government of Iraq beginning on July 13, 2003. The council was empowered to direct policy, appoint ministers, plan and establish a tribunal to try captured Ba’ath Party leaders, and shepherd Iraq’s transition to democracy by drafting a temporary constitution. The CPA maintained official veto power. The IGC became the most diverse body ever to govern Iraq –– it consisted of 13 Shi’iah, five Sunni Arabs, five Kurds, one Assyrian Christian and one ethnic Turk. Among those on the IGC were Ahmed Chalabi, founder of the opposition group the Iraqi National Congress and close ally of Washington, D.C.; Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who is today president of Iraq; Ibrahim al–Jaafari, a leader of the Islamic Daawa Party, who is today prime minister of Iraq; and Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader whose clan was targeted for abduction by Saddam in 1983. The IGC was dissolved in June 2004 after the swearing–in of the Iraqi interim cabinet, led by Interim President Ghazi Yawer and Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Iraqi High Criminal Court

In 2003, the IGC set up a commission assisted by U.S.–trained lawyer Salem Chalabi, the nephew of prominent politician Ahmed Chalabi, to make plans for a tribunal to try Saddam and his deputies. Chalabi and others began to search for judges and to prepare a legal statute to establish the court and its procedures. In December 2003, days after the capture of Saddam, the CPA authorized the IGC to formally establish the tribunal. In 2005, the tribunal laws were adopted by the freely elected Iraqi legislature. The court is empowered to try Iraqis for crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and certain lesser crimes. It has jurisdiction over crimes committed in Iraq or abroad between July 17,1968, the day the Ba’ath Party seized power, and May 1, 2003, the day President Bush declared an end to combat operations. Unlike most war crimes courts, Iraq’s tribunal does not operate under the United Nations; Iraqis run the court with U.S. support. Some of the tribunal’s lawyers were trained by veteran prosecutors and judges who have experience working for other international war crimes tribunals. On July 17, 2005, the tribunal filed its first criminal charge against Saddam Hussein. The case involves the killings of 143 residents of the city of Dujail after a failed attempt on Saddam’s life there in 1982.