Rory McCarthy
Legitimacy and neutrality of court will be challenged
Fri Jul 2, 2004 01:34

Legitimacy and neutrality of court will be challenged

Rory McCarthy in Baghdad and Jonathan Steele
Friday July 2, 2004
The Guardian,2763,1252096,00.html

The complexities of preparing the case against Saddam Hussein became apparent within weeks of Iraq's special tribunal being set up at the end of last year.

Salem Chalabi, the US- and British-educated lawyer who runs the tribunal, spoke then of his frustrations at sifting through the evidence, finding competent, unbiased judges, securing jails and courtrooms and protecting witnesses. He warned it could take up to two years to bring Saddam to trial.

Now a courthouse and judges have been found and the Iraqis have agreed to let the US military continue to guard Saddam and the other detainees until the Iraqi security forces are up to the job.

But that still leaves several issues unsettled. Saddam's lawyers will challenge the legitimacy of the court, which was set up by the governing council, a now disbanded group of advisers appointed by the US occupation authorities. The fact that the tribunal is being run by Mr Chalabi, nephew of one of Iraq's most vociferous Saddam opponents, Ahmad Chalabi, will also raise questions over neutrality.

Amnesty International has said the terms of the Iraqi special tribunal needed to be changed. The statute, it said, did not prevent arbitrary arrest or the torture of detainees to extract confessions. It also suggested there was a lack of expertise among Iraqi judges in tackling cases involving human rights and crimes against humanity. Other human rights groups have noted there is no requirement for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Both the US and the new Iraqi leadership want to run the trial themselves and resisted any suggestion of creating an independent, interna tionally staffed war crimes tribunal like those working on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. That fits comfortably with Washington's reluctance to sign up to the International Criminal Court, but inevitably means a shortage of experience and the danger of vengeful justice.

The Iraqis and the Americans want a short trial and will make every effort to stop Saddam turning his appearance into a political campaign. That approach will also have to be carefully crafted if they are to avoid running a kangaroo court. Although the occupation authorities banned the death penalty, Iraq's new political leaders have warned it may be reintroduced for special cases.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle may be the logistics of amassing evidence. The process may be seriously slowed by sifting through thousands of unsorted documents to find the papers that definitively prove Saddam issued direct orders for the most heinous crimes of his regime.

Few would deny there is a longer term military imperative to conducting a trial that is seen by all sides as impeccably fair. Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, the second most senior military commander in Iraq, said it was important the trial did not "become a carnival and something that the insurgents of the Ba'athists or anybody can say wasn't proper. We have invested too much, we have come too far not to do those last couple of steps with Saddam correctly."

Iraq's human rights minister, Bakhtiar Amin, said last night that Saddam must not be allowed to use his trial as a political platform. "We must learn from the experience of Milosevic's trial at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague and not repeat its mistakes," he said.

Special report

Iraq timeline: Feb 1 2004 - present,12438,1151021,00.html

Iraq timeline: July 16 1979 - Jan 31 2004,12438,793802,00.html

Posted 7/1/2004 10:51 PM Updated 7/1/2004 11:01 PM
Former dictator won't make it easy to try him
By Steven Komarow, USA TODAY


Ahmed Chalabi Meets Saddam Hussein

According to Fox News, (14 December 2003), the US military had summoned Ahmed Chalabi and three other members of the Governing Council  "for the purpose of identifying him [Saddam Hussein] which they did." 

Al Mu'tamar, the INC Mouthpiece,  confirmed that this meeting "to verify his identity" took place a few hours after his capture and well before the news of his arrest was made public.

The delegation to meet Saddam was, according to the reports, composed of Governing Council members Rubaiye, Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi, pre- Saddam -era foreign minister Adnan Pachaci and Shiite Muslim politician Adel Abdel Mahdi.

The role of Ahmed Chalabi was central in the alleged "identification" of Saddam Hussein.

However, Chalabi could not possibly have come up with a positive identification of Saddam Hussein.

Chalabi is an an Iraqi emigre, handpicked by US intelligence to preside over the Iraqi Governing Council.  He left Iraq and emigrated to the US with his family at age 12. He holds a US passport. Chalabi returned after 45 years to Kurdish-held northern Iraq in February 2003, barely one month before the war. On April 6, US troops escorted him to Nasiriya, where he established, with the support of the US military, the so-called Free Iraqi Forces, a paramilitary army of some 600 fighters.

In other words, there is no way Chalabi could have made a positive identification of Saddam Hussein for the simple reason that he left Iraq at age 12 and had no recent encounters with Saddam Hussein.  

On the 18th of December,  Al-Mu'tamar published a photo of Chalabi's meeting with Saddam, under the headline "After Saddam begged his jailers to meet Al-Chalabi"

Al-Mutamar (Congress), 18 December 2003 shows Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi (L) visiting Saddam Hussein in his cell, hours after his capture by US troops  on 14 December near his home town of Tikrit, in northern Iraq. The headlines of the paper (unseen) reads, "After Saddam begged his captors to meet with Chalabi, Al-Mutamar publishes an exclusive historic picture of the meeting between Dr. Chalabi and the arrested tyrant". AFP PHOTO / AL-MUTAMAR  AFP or Agence France-Presse, 2003

The photo was taken on the 13th of December "when a delegation from Iraq's interim Governing Council, including Chalabi, were brought by the Americans to identify Saddam". This meeting was held prior to the official announcement of Saddam's capture. In other words, the press was not present at this meeting. The photo may have been taken by the INC delegation or provided by a US official to Al Mu'tamar (Congress), which was then fed it into the news chain. In all likelihood, in view of the CIA's close ties to Chalabi's INC, US intelligence was no doubt also involved.

The Trial Of Saddam Hussein


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