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October 27, 2004

Comments

Is Iraq in a position to conduct such a trial with no US assistance of any kind? No US witnesses, no evidence from US sources, no relationship between the US and the court or prosecution?

According to what I've read, they're not ready and could use some help. Applebaum notes:

The original decision to hold Hussein's trial under Iraqi auspices was a good one, but the tribunal now needs more help from international judges and investigators, and more assistance from the U.S. intelligence officers who still control so many Baathist documents.

Even before the trail officially started, though, news stories about it could capture the imagination of the Iraqi public. It's movement toward it being what it should be (careful, open, well covered) that could help, as opposed to the quick and dirty version Allawi seems to favor.

I suspect that predicting whether or not a long trial is likely to unite or divide in the short term is an exercise in fultility. There are so many possiblities that it is beyond rational calculation. That said, I suspect that a thorough airing of Saddam's crimes would be good for Iraq in the long run.

The question really is whether or not things will be so bad in the short run as to make such a long run concern not worth pursuing.

My gut feeling is to agree with Applebaum on this, but I can see the other arguments very easily.

The question really is whether or not things will be so bad in the short run as to make such a long run concern not worth pursuing.

I know the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation makes such despair very tempting, but I think it has to be resisted.

I agree with Applebaum, and I think there is solid historical precedent to justify it. Let's trust that the long run is worth planning for, no matter how bad things look in the near future.

Above all, Allawi - unelected puppet ruler - should not be allowed to make a decision with such long-term national consequences.

the south american truth and reconciliation process apparently did a great deal of good. and whatshisname could play the role of archbishop tutu.

Francis

Just out of curiosity, under which set of laws will he be tried? The ones in force when he allegedly commited crimes?

double-plus-ungood, that question is why he should be tried by an international court.

But the Bush administration decided against that, and I can see the emotional value of having Saddam Hussein tried by an Iraqi court. But not if the "value" is a quick trial and a quick execution.

Back in April, I met a guy who had spent six months in Iraq helping them establish the tribunal. This guy -- an international lawyer with a background in British Intelligence and work as an investigator for the Yugoslav Tribunal -- was firm in his belief that a trial, if properly conducted, could do a world of good for Iraq in terms of launching a dialogue about the past, acknowledging how deeply affected all cross sections of Iraqi society were, etc. His views were reflected in a public opinion study that came out last summer conducted by the Intl Center for Transitional Justice, which showed that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported public trials.

Trying Saddam Hussein -- publicly and fairly -- would undoubtedly be a good thing. However, the dynamics of the conflict are so complex that it's hard to imagine that such a trial would do much to promote peace in the near term. The benefits of a trial will really only be realized if it is seen to signal a clean break with the past, and appears to be the first step towards a regime based on transparency and the rule of law. Iraq is a long way off from that.

The question of Iraqi capacity to run a trial is equally problematic: Iraqis likely believe themselves capable to run the trial, and there is a very good argument to be made that the benefit of the trial will be undermined if if is run for them, rather by them. At this point, anything that the US touches is immediately stained with illegimitacy, so any outside assistance should come from a neutral body.

But the Bush administration decided against that

Yeah, I was wondering how that would fall out, given the aversion to the whole ICC deal. How could you justify forking over Saddam to the ICC if it's something you don't support? I'm thinking that the Iraqi court was the way to go, because of this: if they're not ready to conduct a fair trial, they're not ready to self-govern.

I'm thinking that the Iraqi court was the way to go, because of this: if they're not ready to conduct a fair trial, they're not ready to self-govern.

But which laws did Hussein break? I'm not a lawyer, bu it seems to me that people are tried on the basis of breaking laws at the time of the crime. If Hussein's actions were legal under Hussein's laws, on what basis can he be tried by an Iraqi court? If it's a fair trial, I mean.

I very much doubt that SH cannot be charged with something under Iraqi law.

To come back to the main point, there's very little positive impact on the Iraqi polity if the trial takes place in the Hague. Only negative impact if it takes place under US auspices, no matter where. A chance of a positive impact if it's conducted in Iraq by Iraqis, who were not appointed to the task by the US.

This means not in 2004, and very probably not in 2005.

I very much doubt that SH cannot be charged with something under Iraqi law.

Why?

Yeah, why? I mean, if it was legal to swipe a bunch of oil-for-food money and build himself an empire...

Maybe they can get him for bumping off all of his opposition back when he came into power. If there's any evidence left.

I mean, if it was legal to swipe a bunch of oil-for-food money and build himself an empire...

That's exactly my point.

Maybe they can get him for bumping off all of his opposition back when he came into power. If there's any evidence left.

The codefendant on that charge might be a bit embarrassing.

You guys just haven't got the imagination of a prosecutor. I'd be very surprised if everyone "disappeared" by the SH admin got a trial that comported even with Iraqi notions of due process. And here you'd have an arch-conspirator. Did SH give the order for Sadr Sr.'s death? Think you could find some kind of irregularity with it? I'd be very surprised if SH's salary paid for all that fine property. I'm no expert on the Iraqi criminal code, but you know that it has to have included a whole lot of what we call crime.

We're not talking about Germans, where going by the book is almost the state religion. This was a guy who ran a country, brutally, as his personal playground. He thought he was the law. He wasn't.

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