News and opinions on situation in Iraq
01/07/04 Saddam's So-Called Judges, Tribunal and Juries Could Be Without International Mandate
(TMPress International – New York – July 1, 2004) The BBC's Christian Frasier in Baghdad says there are concerns in Iraq that crucial evidence has still to be gathered and that Iraqis cannot be victims and at the same time juries.

The former CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) supposedly identified more than 250 mass graves across Iraq, but as yet there has been no full forensic exhumations and investigations are hampered by the lack of security on the ground. The BBC correspondent says without a system in place to gather statements and protect those who come forward there are fears that many valuable witnesses will be lost. But the Interim Iraqi government has dismissed such concerns, insisting that the evidence is already overwhelming, as Saddam Hussein's regime was meticulous in recording the most minute details of abuses carried out.

The defiant Saddam appeared in court both defiant and downcast in manner … as Iraq's ex-leader Saddam Hussein made his first appearance before an Iraqi judge – all selected by the Interim PM Allawi's INA (Iraqi National Accord) or Amhed Chalabi's INC (Iraqi National Congress), as a matter of fact the lead judge on the tribunal is Salem Chalabi – a nephew of Amhed Chalabi with close US State Department ties. Saddam branded US President George W. Bush as the `real criminal.' He defended Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, said he was still president and rejected the court's jurisdiction. He also denounced the proceedings as `theatre' and questioned the validity of the law he was to be tried under. `I am Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq,' he replied when asked to confirm his identity at the hearing, which took place inside one of his former palaces, now a sprawling US base.

A list of seven preliminary charges were read aloud to the ex-President, which he immediately dismissed and refused to sign any documents, including accusations over the campaign against the Kurds in the 1990s, which included the use of chemical weapons in Halabja, and the suppression of Kurdish and Shi'a uprisings after the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam Hussein refused to concede that he had invaded Kuwait in 1990, unjustly … `how can you, as an Iraqi, say the `Invasion of Kuwait' when Kuwait is part of Iraq?' he asked the judge, whose face was not shown on the film and whose identity is being kept secret for security reasons. Saddam waved his hands at his accusers and questioned their legal authority – saying at one point … `since he is the one who invoked the proclamations of trials and procedures.'

Legally, he may have a point – but mute for that matter … on the other hand his international attorneys are being `denied access' to Saddam to this day! The team representing Saddam is currently based in Amman, Jordan – lawyers appointed by Saddam Hussein's family to represent the ousted Iraqi leader say they have been repeatedly denied access to their client. Mohammed Rashdan – one of a 20-strong team taken on by the family – has asked for international protection to enable him to visit his client. In a BBC interview, he also alleged that he had received death threats from the Iraqi government.

Saddam Hussein, who is expected to face charges of war crimes and genocide, is appearing in court for the first time on Thursday; another lawyer said the defense team had got authority from Saddam Hussein's wife and two daughters to say he wished them to represent him. `The difficulty we face is we aren't able to be officially recognized as his defense team until he has signed the power of attorney,' Tim Hughes told the BBC. `Moves are being made … for us to complete the legalities of making sure the power of attorney is fully recognized.' Mr. Hughes also questioned whether his client could receive a fair trial in Iraq. Many international judges and attorneys are calling for any tribunals to be moved to `The Hague.'

`The new Iraqi constitution is illegal,' he said. `The appointment of judges has been all politically motivated … that is no justice,' he added. He accused to US-led coalition of putting on a show trial, and said he had been asking for access to his client `non-stop.' Mr. Rashdan also questioned the court's legitimacy. `When they occupied Iraq, this is illegal and everything about that will be illegal,' he said. `They change the law and they didn't have any council or parliament to change the law.' `All the procedure from the date of occupation of Iraq up until this moment is illegal and until this moment the law of Iraq is valid,' he added.

Because the CPA officially no longer exists, its so-called mandate has also ended, that could mean that a post-mortem transitional law authority in Iraq or the (TAL) created by the CPA, as in the case of the former Yugoslavia - could be unenforceable under International Law and produce no authority to the Interim Iraqi Government to be able to claim international legal authority to prosecute, except by already binding bodies of legal international authority – likening it to the former Yugoslavian President Milosevic and his top Serb officials. As in that case and after the 1999 Kosovo War led by NATO, the Yugoslav President and other officials were eventually handed over to the International Court at The Hague for criminal prosecution and remain there today for final judgment, after their governments were toppled internally – the current Iraqi tribunal is not legal under this view and because the 2003 `Invasion of Iraq' did not have legal International UN authority as the `Kosovo Air War' had in 1999, where the UN, NATO, the EU and KFOR military forces acted in concert to defend the break-away republic – which is still under International Mandate today!

Oddly, many Sunni Iraqis want him back as president, a testament to the charismatic figure he is … many watching the formal charges for trial against Saddam in Baghdad are quoted as saying they don't know why they are trying Saddam … claiming that he is guilty of nothing! Others claim his presidency is a heroic time … that he stood up to America and that makes him a respected and honored elder … `their true leader' … seeing him as a great Arab leader in this manner humiliates them – no matter what he did! Iraq's new interim government is considering restoring the death penalty, suspended during the US-led occupation of the CPA, but those who benefited from his rule hailed him as a strongman who only did what he had to do, in order to maintain security and stability. Some also view Saddam as being punished by the same people who served him and that the Americans are going along with tribunals in Iraq as way of punishing him for standing up to Bush and Blair – noting Saddam was a part of their nation for 35 years and that he would always be in their hearts – as their leader. – By John Osborne, Sr. Political Editor – TMPress International Newswire

© 2004 TMPress International Newswire. Reprint granted without fee or license, please feel free to query for reprint permission.

Article Sources/Citations: TMPress International, the BBC, international network and newswire services.

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