While some are rejoicing at the guilty verdict handed down in Saddam’s trial for crimes against humanity (see video), serious questions are being asked about the trial process that led to the verdict.

  • “I think it is difficult to see there has been a fair trial when we have defence lawyers and judges threatened and murdered and behind the scenes it is apparent that this is a product of the Green Zone, the US occupation forces. It may be there was a fair trial but it is very difficult to see one way or the other because of the armed conflict and lack of security and overwhelming control of a foreign power.” — Ken Hurwitz, an international lawyer with the US-based Human Rights FirstGuardian
  • “It was right that Saddam Hussein should be prosecuted for international crimes. But if not done properly there were bound to be questions about the legitimacy of the process. It was a mistake to proceed then with an exclusively Iraqi tribunal rather than an internationalised effort.” – Philippe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London and a barrister at Matrix ChambersGuardian
  • “Many critics have objected from the beginning that the tribunal is illegitimate. Under the laws of war, occupying powers are not permitted to establish extraordinary courts, and of course this tribunal was established during the US occupation, albeit by the Iraqi governing council. Within a few days of the trial commencing, the Iraqi parliament passed a new law to reconstitute it as a bona fide Iraqi institution. The defence has continued to challenge its legitimacy but for practical purposes at least, the argument has become academic.” Sonia Sceat, an Australian international lawyer, Guardian
  • “The court was not impartial. There were not adequate steps taken to protect the security of defence lawyers and witnesses … Every individual has a right to a fair trial, even people accused of crimes of the magnitude that Saddam Hussein was accused of, and this has not been a fair trial.” –Malcolm Smart, head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme for Amnesty International, Reuters
  • “The American architects of the Iraqi tribunal’s charter ignored pleas from experts in international law that for justice to be done — and to be seen to be done — the trials should have been held outside Iraq and been presided over by international judges. US officials acknowledge privately that the endless violence in Iraq has distracted Iraqis from the proceedings, but they refuse to accept that it has interfered with the process — notwithstanding the assassination of three of Saddam’s lawyers, the murder of court officials and the murder and attempted bribery and intimidation of witnesses.” – Paul McGeough, The Age
  • “The odd thing is that Iraq is now swamped with mass murderers, guilty of rape and massacre and throat-slitting and torture in the years since our ‘liberation’ of Iraq. Many of them work for the Iraqi government we are currently supporting, democratically elected, of course. And these war criminals, in some cases, are paid by us, through the ministries we set up under this democratic government. And they will not be tried. Or hanged. That is the extent of our cynicism. And our shame. Have ever justice and hypocrisy been so obscenely joined?” – Robert Fisk

Peter Fray

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