The Crimes and Punishment of Saddam Hussein

From media responses and online polls in the Middle East, there seems to be a sense that the trial of Saddam Hussein was flawed or “unfair”. If the trial’s intent (in addition to trying a thug and war criminal) was truth and reconciliation, to break with the past and legitimize the new political and legal order, it seems to have failed severely. There is division in Iraq and dissatisfaction even among the Kurds. Mufid Abdulla in Kurdish Media:

This trial was unprecedented from the very first day. It seemed to me that nothing other than the mercy of the American power in Baghdad towards the Iraqi people would bring a speedy and conclusive end. There was also always the question of how to manage a trial of this nature, given the magnitude and complexity of the alleged atrocities.

For me too, the result of this trial is nothing but part of a political game played by the Americans: for their own ends and purpose. I personally have not gained any satisfaction from the outcome: it does not give me back my childhood, my youth, or my country, all of which I lost when we had to escape the situation. So now it is ended? But it is too late for me and others like me!

In the Daily Star (Beirut), the jurist Chinli Mallat reflects on the trial and verdict.

Difficulties started well before the 2003 invasion, and it is unfortunate that a tribunal was not set up as early as 1991, when the German foreign minister at the time, Hans Genscher, suggested that Saddam should be held judicially accountable for the invasion of Kuwait. With colleagues from the Iraqi opposition then, I helped establish in 1996 “Indict,” an international NGO which sought to bring Saddam Hussein and his aides to trial in a neutral court for their unique record of crimes against humanity. Not enough support was garnered to establish an international tribunal. This is the more unfortunate since the delayed establishment of the Iraqi court proved to be another instance of victors’ justice.

Since then, the court has failed almost every single test of a fair trial under basic standards: The main accused and his acolytes were given deference which choice world criminals should have never been allowed to exercise, a plethora of lawyers postured to the world without judges questioning who was paying for all their fees and expenses. Since Saddam Hussein, his family and supporters were footing the bill, the court did not question where those funds came from, while killings by Baathists remained high, and continue to date to be supported by the main accused in open court. Lack of fairness extended in all directions. Two defense lawyers were killed, as well as a number of witnesses, while the court saw a dramatic turnover of leading personnel.