Former Dictator on Trial for His Life: Saddam Hussein

By Penketh, Anne | The Independent (London, England), October 19, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Former Dictator on Trial for His Life: Saddam Hussein


Penketh, Anne, The Independent (London, England)


THE DEFENDANT

Once the darling of the West, Saddam Hussein held effective power since 1968 and absolute power in Iraq from 1979, when he became President and embarked on the first bloodletting that punctuated his 35-year rule by purging the ruling Baathist party. A year later Iran was attacked at the start of an eight-year war in which Saddam enjoyed the support of the US and Britain against the revolutionary Islamic leaders in Tehran. In 1988, when Iraqi forces used used chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja, killing some 5,000 civilians, Western governments averted their gaze. But Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 triggered both UN economic sanctions and the first Gulf war, which rolled back the occupation. Then followed a decade of in effect UN trusteeship of Saddam's country, while weapons inspectors scoured Iraq. But the containment policy began to leak and Saddam consolidated his power under the sanctions regime. The Bush administration vowed to rid the world of a dictator accused of concealing banned weapons programmes. After 11 September 2001, the military plans were put in place. Saddam fled as tanks rolled into Baghdad in April 2003 and was captured eight months later, taken from a hole near his home town of Tikrit.

n THE COURT

The marble-lined court, below, decorated by chandeliers, is in a building where Saddam used to store gifts. It had not been decided yesterday whether the proceedings will be televised live or with a delay. It was also not known whether the five judges would be named or pictured. Some witnesses are to give evidence from behind a curtain to protect their anonymity, while observers and journalists will be behind bulletproof glass. Saddam and his co-defendants are being tried before an all-Iraqi special tribunal, set up in 2003 by the US-led authorities and now overseen by the elected government. It consists of trial chambers with five judges in each. The judges will hear the case without a jury. The prosecutor and Saddam's defence lawyer may propose questions for the judges to ask.

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