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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Focus on forthcoming trial of Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, 28 June 2005 (IRIN) - A'amel Abdul Juad, 33, held a photo of her parents and recalled the tragic day when the men from the regime of former president, Saddam Hussein broke into her house and shot her father and brothers. Her mother was raped and later died leaving her an orphan, alone in the world.

"I lost all the members of my family when I was 10 years old. I saw all of them being assassinated," Juad said. Her horror dates from the attack in July 1982, when her family's village, Dujail, a Shi'ite town 80 km north of the capital, Baghdad, was stormed by Saddam's men.

More than 145 Iraqis in Dujail were assassinated by the last regime, according to the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) which was set up in late 2003 to investigate such atrocities. The people of Dujail were accused of being conspirators against the former president and of trying to kidnap and kill him. As summary punishment, dozens of women, children and men were killed in their houses or endured months of torture in prison.

The Dujail case is one of the main charges Hussein will have to answer when he goes on trial in September, according to Iraqi government officials. The former leader, who is being held in a US detention facility at Baghdad airport, was captured in Tikrit city in December 2003. The IST will now try him and 11 of his top lieutenants.

CHARGE SHEET

The Iraqi government announced in late June that the former dictator would only answer 12 charges of crimes against humanity, although there are more than 500 confirmed cases against him.

"The 12 chosen charges are more than enough to give him the maximum sentence applicable," Leith Kubba, an Iraqi government spokesman, said.

According to a list obtained by IRIN from the IST in Baghdad, six of the 12 charges relate to the most barbaric incidents initiated by Hussein during his reign of terror. These six episodes are: the execution of more than 145 Iraqis in 1982 in Dujail; the murder by gassing of nearly 5,000 people in the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988; the execution of key political and religious leaders during the 35 years in power; the killing and deportation of more than 10,000 members of the Kurdish Barzani tribe; the 1991 suppression of a Shi'ite uprising in southern Iraq; the illegal occupation of Kuwait in 1991.

Dujail's Special Committee of Freed Prisoners (SCFP), which has submitted powerful evidence to lawyers preparing Saddam's prosecution, said it had found documents listing 148 inhabitants executed by a special decree signed by Saddam, dated July 23, 1985.

TIMING OF THE TRIAL

According to Salam Adel, a senior official in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Iraqi government is pushing for the trial to end before elections slated for December of 2005.

But those involved believe the process of collecting evidence and witnesses will inevitably be a long one.

"Interrogations have taken place with the ex-president and it will take a long time, because there are so many charges against him and it is not something easy to collect evidence but 12 of them are nearly fully complete," he added.

In the new Iraq, suspects, even those accused of such heinous crimes, are entitled to a fair trial and remain innocent until proven guilty. At least 22 lawyers are currently working as the defence team for Hussein, they say they have a job to do as advocates on his behalf.

"If you go deep, you will find that Saddam was just defending himself as in the Dujail case. All actions by him were just a way to prevent destabilisation in the country," Khalil al-Duleimi, one of Hussein's defence lawyers, said.

Duleimi added that many charges against his client were unfounded because senior government officials, during the last regime, were acting without his knowledge or consent.

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS

Amnesty International (AI), has said the trial of Saddam Hussein should proceed according to international laws on human rights but highlighted that the use of the death penalty was not an appropriate form of retribution.

"The death penalty is just a way to increase criminality in Iraq and not to correct it," Middle East spokeswoman for AI, Nicole Choueiry, told IRIN from their London headquarters. Choueiry added that the organisation was monitoring Iraqi government preparations for the trial, to ensure it is conducted according to international standards.

In a report released in February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) outlined the details of known executions, torture, mass arrests and other human rights crimes carried out by the former Iraqi government and Baath Party officials in southern Iraq in early 1999.

The report blames the massacres there, as well as of that in Halabja, to Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali" for his willingness to use gas and chemical weapons on civilians. He is scheduled to be the first one to be tried by the IST.

"Justice must be done through the trial in respect to the victims, their familiars and for a future in Iraq based on respect for human rights," Hania Muffi, Middle East spokeswoman for the HRW, told IRIN from the Jordanian capital, Amman.

A HRW investigation team has been compiling evidence in southern Iraq which points to the massacre of hundreds of people during the uprising there in 1990, adding that the documents would be used against Saddam Hussein's regime. Muffi said that HRW objected to the death penalty and trials in absentia. She added that the trial of Hussein and the other accused, should be conducted fairly to make the process credible.

"I wish that I was the judge of Saddam because I would make him pay for our suffering. It is a matter of days and justice will be present in Iraq finally," said Um Hussein, the only survivor of her family of eight, speaking to IRIN in Dulail. All the rest of her relations were murdered by the former dictator's regime.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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