Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Demand for Huge Trial in Baghdad; SADDAM CAPTURE GOVERNING COUNCIL MAY USE NEWLY-CREATED COURT BUT UNITED NATIONS WOULD HAVE NO ROLE IN LEGAL PROCESS Saddam Likely to Face Charges of War Crimes at Public Tribunal

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Demand for Huge Trial in Baghdad; SADDAM CAPTURE GOVERNING COUNCIL MAY USE NEWLY-CREATED COURT BUT UNITED NATIONS WOULD HAVE NO ROLE IN LEGAL PROCESS Saddam Likely to Face Charges of War Crimes at Public Tribunal

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS STEPHEN

THE future of the former Iraqi dictator is now in the dock - as defendant in the world's most high-profile war crimes trial.

Saddam Hussein seems certain to face justice at the hands of his fellow countrymen who, with extraordinary good timing, last week unveiled a special tribunal to try him and his henchmen.

Urged on by the Americans, the Iraqi Governing Council created the tribunal and late last night council member Ahmad Chalabi confirmed Saddam will face "public trial". The momentum to try him in Baghdad now seems all but unstoppable. Employing Iraqi judges, this new court could try him for genocide as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes. A lengthy trial could expose crimes ranging from the gassing of the Kurds and the annihilation of the Marsh Arabs to the torture of British airmen taken prisoner in the first Gulf war, and the murder, abuse and terror inflicted on hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Also covered by the tribunal's 38 articles are crimes such as the destruction of religious monuments, population transfers and the theft of billions of dollars from the national treasury. Every one of them could apply to Saddam.

But the trial would be controversial because, at American urging, the United Nations would play no part in the proceedings.

The tribunal's rules have provision for international judges, but the UN has been given no role in the trial process, despite running the war crimes court now trying Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague.

This decision has already seen human rights groups question the court's legitimacy.

But the Iraqi Governing Council hopes the sheer horror of evidence in the courtroom would drown out criticism about the decision not to wait until Iraq has elected a government that could give the court its stamp of approval.

Human Rights Watch has already criticised the tribunal, saying it "lacks essential elements to ensure legitimate and credible trials", and Amnesty International said there should have been consultation among Iraqis first.

British and American service personnel need have no fear of themselves being investigated for war crimes violations in the past war - because the court only has the power to try Iraqi nationals.

Some will worry that Saddam could "do a Milosevic" - taking advantage of the complex rules to make a mockery of the court. And not just that: America may face embarrassing accusations, in Saddam's defence, about its support for his regime. He might even want to call Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who travelled to Baghdad to see him in the Eighties, as a defence witness.

It remains unclear whether the tribunal will have the power to pass the death penalty. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said today: "There are different views on the death penalty between the coalition and the governing council. …

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