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Foreign Media Reaction

October 21, 2005

IRAQ:  SADDAM TRIAL MUST REJECT 'VICTOR'S JUSTICE'

KEY FINDINGS

**  Media urge Iraqis to forgo "vengeance" while seeking justice against the "Arab Stalin."

**  The trial must "scrupulously respect" international norms of jurisprudence.

**  Arab dailies, fighting U.S. role, say trial "will not pass the test" of fairness.

**  Western editorialists assert an international tribunal "would have been more appropriate."

MAJOR THEMES

'Trial of the century'--  As the trial of Saddam Hussein opened, one Iraqi Kurd opined that "trying the tyrant...is the moment of justice" for his many victims, while SCIRI-linked Al-Adala said the judge must hand down "an execution sentence."  Global media, though, urged the Iraqi court to allow "neither hate nor vengeance" to guide the trial.  Iraqis and the wider Arab world need a "dispassionate and judicially impeccable lesson" on the "magnitude of what [Iraqis] have endured."  Spain's conservative ABC observed that the trial "brings another test of the weak democratic structure in Iraq," not only because the "Arab Stalin" will be judged, but also "because an exemplary process will affect the reputation of the incipient democracy" of Iraq.

'Saddam must not become a martyr'--  Commentators expressed concern that a trial that appeared to wreak "victor's justice" on Saddam could accord him the "status of martyr" in the eyes of some, particularly Iraq's Sunnis, who "already feel backed into a corner."  Canada's liberal Toronto Star declared the trial must be "seen to be fair and open, and not an act of political vengeance in the midst of American occupation and Sunni insurgency."  A trial "perceived to be unfair...could be as bad as no trial at all:  a divisive liability rather than the necessary national catharsis," stated a British analyst, while another Euro writer worried that the trial "could give new strength to the most intransigent" former Baathists.

Arabs:  'trial raises many questions'--  Saudi Arabia's pro-government Arab News remarked that Saddam's "contempt" for the court reflected the "disdain he demonstrated in his glory days for all Iraqis," and an Algerian paper speculated that Saddam wants to lend "political cachet" to his trial.  Many Arab editorials questioned the fairness of the proceedings.  U.S. prosecutorial assistance and training "undermines the tribunal's independence," a Saudi commentator opined, while pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi declared that "any trial held under the spears of occupation forces...will not be fair."  Saudi and Lebanese papers held the trial "has lost its glitter" because of the "grave crimes and mistakes" of the coalition occupation. 

Iraq's democracy 'also on trial' --  Western media mostly found it "regrettable" that Saddam was being tried in an Iraqi court, contending that an "international court would have been more convincing."  Canada's leading Globe and Mail saw "worrying signs and serious structural defects" in the proceedings.  Contrarian Finnish and Italian outlets supported a trial by Iraqis, terming their desire to seek justice from Saddam themselves "morally and politically understandable."  Several Euro papers argued ruling out the death penalty would show the tribunal was motivated by a search for justice, not "a thirst for vengeance."

Prepared by Media Reaction Division (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITORS:  Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 55 reports from 27 countries October 15-20, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN:  "Saddam Hussein Is Not The Only One On Trial"

The center-left Independent editorialized (10/19):  "Ruling out the death penalty in advance would be one way for Iraq's government to show it is motivated by a desire for justice rather than a thirst for vengeance.  It could also prevent Saddam, now or later, being accorded the status of martyr.  The recent restoration of the death penalty, however, suggests it will be used.  A trial perceived to be unfair and culminating in an execution could be as bad as no trial at all:  a divisive liability rather than the necessary national catharsis."

"Saddam Faces Justice"

The conservative Daily Telegraph took this view (10/19):  "It is questionable whether the short-lived transitional government, whose writ hardly extends beyond the blast-walls of the Green Zone defended by American guns, really has the authority to preside over such a momentous issue....  Iraq's judiciary must now prove that it scrupulously respects the international norms that Saddam ignored.  It is not only Saddam Hussein who will be on trial...but also Iraq's embryonic democracy."

"Don't Hurry Over Saddam"

Amir Taheri commented in the conservative Times (10/19):  "What is at stake is more than the fate of a despot and his entourage.  Iraq and, beyond it the Arab world, where the remnants of pan-Arabism regard Saddam Hussein as their champion, need a prolonged, dispassionate, and judicially impeccable lesson in history and political ethics."

"Justice In Baghdad"

The left-of-center Guardian concluded (10/19):  "It is important for ordinary Iraqis and the wider Arab world to see and hear [Saddam] and his henchmen being tried.  It is right that he be called to account for terrible crimes committed both against his own people and others--whether or not he was then a friend of the West, or indeed whether the U.S.-led war that overthrew him was itself legal.  But even the end of a nightmare has to stand up to international scrutiny.  Justice, as ever, must be seen to be done."

"Saddam On The Stand"

The conservative Times held (10/19):  "From the start, the danger has been that any trial will be seen by Iraqis, especially by alienated Sunnis, as victor's justice--an attempt by America to control the proceedings and the outcome either directly or through pro-American Iraqis.  For this reason the U.S. and Britain, though offering useful and discreet advice on procedure, precedent and safeguards, have distanced themselves from the trial."

FRANCE:  "Let’s Let The Iraqis Do Their Job"

Pierre Rousselin argued in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/19):  "No matter what the situation on the ground, the Iraqis deserve to know the magnitude of what they have endured....  The defense will harp on the conditions of the trial....  But if Saddam is being tried at all it is thanks to the U.S. Army.  Other dictators summarily executed were not so lucky....  The Tribunal must avoid serving as a sounding box for the Sunni insurrection....  It must also keep from turning into a sideshow once the accused begins to tell his stories of past complicity with France and the U.S.  For Iraq to emerge as a nation that respects the right of law, the trial must be irreproachable.  Only then will we be able to say that a war that was waged under false pretexts has had a positive effect.  Let’s give the Iraqis a chance to do their job, remembering that the people of the Middle East are watching."

"Imperfect"

Patrick Sabatier concluded in left-of-center Liberation (10/19):  "Saddam’s trial will be no exception to the rule of an imperfect justice.  But it is better than no justice at all.  Having said this, it is also true that it will be difficult not to see the trial as a travesty of justice.  America’s attempts to not appear as being both judge and jury are not convincing.  The former dictator will be judged by his enemies, Shiites and Kurds, and by the Americans.  An international court would have been more convincing.  This trial cannot serve as a foundation for the right of law in Iraq:  it will exacerbate Sunni bitterness.  Its only merit is that it will serve as a teaching tool and remind everyone of what it was to live under Saddam."

"Justice First And Foremost"

Bruno Frappat had this to say in Catholic La Croix (10/19):  "Neither hate nor vengeance must guide this trial....  And those who will treat Saddam as he never treated his opponents must be honored.  Yet this trial should never serve as a case study in law schools....  It was put together by Paul Bremer under conditions which do not grant it legitimacy....  But the need for this trial goes beyond justice; there is a political stake: while Iraq has not yet found the peace and stability promised by the Bush administration, how the trial is conducted will determine the future of Iraq.  A wise and non-hysterical trial will demonstrate maturity.  A hasty one will be a missed opportunity."

"Hastiness"

Gerard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Liberation (10/18):  "The accused is too important, the accusations too serious and the defense too weak.  From the start the scales are tipping to one side.  This trial [of Saddam], which should have been an exemplary trial, could well end up as a trial of the arbitrary dressed up in legality....  When NGO’s complain about the conditions of the trial, it is because they are afraid of the image it will be giving of the law....  The December elections and Sunday’s referendum prove that the Iraqis have opted for the democratic process....  Justice is not revenge.  Anyone who opposes the death penalty will find something to say against the penalty of death in Saddam Hussein’s case if it is the result of an expeditious implementation of a shaky legislation....  Because the Iraqis suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi court needed to judge him.  This will be done hastily, before even Iraq’s new institutions have had a chance to stabilize.  And the reasons for this have nothing to do with the law,  but with political imperatives dictated not by Iraqi requirements but Washington’s requirements."

"Washington:  A Worried Spectator Of The Trial"

Philippe Gelie contended in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/18):  "The trial opening tomorrow carries for Washington as much risk of fueling tension as it does of creating an opportunity to turn the page....  How Saddam is preparing for his defense is putting Washington in a cold sweat, all the while saying that the trial is in the hands of the Iraqis....  The U.S. finds itself the spectator of a process it was only able to guide from behind the scenes....  While it waits for the outcome, Washington is staying aloof to see whether the trial will give a new boost to the rebellion or turns in favor of the accused.  If the debates are properly orchestrated, they can use the dictator’s crimes as a much needed 'booster shot' for the December legislative elections and the principles of democracy."

GERMANY:  "Tyrant In Court"

Peter von Becker commented in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/19):  "It is an historic moment when Saddam must face an Iraqi court....  Never before was a former state leader, who has so much blood on his hands and was internationally so significant, taken to court in his own country and under the eyes of the world....  Sixty years ago, the Nuremberg trials against the violations of human rights, the conspiracy against peace, and the planning of an aggressive war set the model for international justice....  This idea, the Nuremberg verdicts, the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the pressure created by the electronic media mean that political criminals can no longer feel protected.  The trial in Baghdad could also send such a signal.  However, its burden is that--apart from the civil war-like uncertainty in Iraq--the court's legal legitimacy is not sacrosanct....  The tyrant was not overthrown by a people's rebellion and he was not taken to court in a sovereign act of the Iraqi justice.  The American occupation power did not win a defensive war, but a war of aggression.  The charge against Saddam is fair without any doubt, but the judges will have to prove their legitimacy."

"Symbol Saddam"

Karim El-Gawhary noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (10/19):  "There is no doubt that one of the most brutal dictators in the Arab world is guilty.  When Saddam faces the court today, it is clear that he will be hanged in the end.  However, it is important that the Arab Stalin gets a fair trial to avoid the feeling of 'victor's justice'....  Unlike Germany during the Nuremberg trials, Iraq's situation is completely unstable.  There is a war going on between insurgents and U.S. troops and the government; the country is on the verge of a civil war.  The only certainty is that the old regime will not return.  Can there be a fair war criminal trial in such a situation?  That is difficult to imagine.  On the one hand, there are the Americans who want to justify the war, saying that although no weapons of mass destruction were found, the dictator was taken to court.  And then there is the dispute between the different ethnic and religious groups in Iraq.  While the Shiites and the Kurds would like to see Saddam hanging, they Sunnis would like to forget about his role.  Still, Saddam and the question of how he is treated is a symbol for them.  The Sunnis distrust new things in Iraq.  The dispute over the counting of the votes of the referendum intensified this feeling.  A court established, funded and counseled by the U.S. will not contribute to soothe their concerns."

"Taking Saddam To Court"

Martina Doering observed in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (10/19):  "The Iraqis realized that the trial was prepared in haste.  They and the Arab-Islamic world will closely watch the proceedings.  Only a few people desire Saddam's return to power.  However, an unfair trial and a quick judgment could mean that the dictator Saddam is not deprived of his mystique, but that the people see him as an humiliated Iraqi."

"Forgotten Past"

Markus Ziener argued in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (10/19):  "The number of his crimes is so high that nobody can really doubt his guilt. Saddam Hussein imprisoned people, tortured and killed them.  He was the head of a system of 'unfreedom' and horror for those who dared to rebel or belonged to the wrong ethnic group.  When Saddam was toppled in April 2003 we all had grounds to be relieved.  However, the war that led to Saddam's end was not started with that rationale.  The U.S. saw Iraq getting a hand on weapons of mass destruction.   And Americans were convinced that there was a connection between Baghdad and al Qaida.  Both assumptions were wrong.  Only the criminal Saddam is left, and that is why the trial against the former dictator is so important for the people in Iraq and U.S. President Bush.  To justify the invasion and the daily victims, the U.S. administration needs a fair and convincing trial." 

ITALY:  "The Day Of Reckoning"

Prominent Middle East analyst Igor Man commented in centrist, influential La Stampa (10/19):  "As far as we know, in the Islamic world, tyrants have always died in battle, or have been killed by hired killers, even in their own beds, with the blessing of their most loyal followers and their dearest family members.  Never have they died as a result of a trial verdict.  Saddam Hussein is a special case....  World public opinion is asking for a fair trial, not for a new Nuremberg.  If we count numbers, it appears that Saddam Hussein has at least two million dead on his conscience.  The verdict is already written in the hearts and minds of the judges and of those who suffered for his atrocious organized crimes.  But, by sentencing him to death, the Iraqi special tribunal would certainly make him a legendary martyr.  Better to let him talk without fear at the trial:  we already know the sins of the West that used him (badly) in order to get rid of Khomeini....  Sentencing him to death would be a huge mistake.  Shooting him or hanging him would make him a hero-martyr for many Arabs in general, and Islamists in particular.  He should be punished like the Nazi Hess:  sentenced to not talk to anyone, alone in silence for life in a remote prison."

"Saddam’s Trial And The Noble Ends Of Justice"

Antonio Cassese, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/19):  "In principle, it is correct to try a former dictator: doing justice is always a legitimate need....  The tribunal for Saddam represents a huge step backwards.  It is an exclusively national organism:  instituted de facto by the leading occupying force on December 10, 2003, it is comprised solely of Iraqi judges, carefully chosen by the occupier....  Do you think that a tribunal thus constituted can do justice in a just manner....  Should trials be banished?  No, they should be conducted, especially against dictators.  However, without political exploitation that thwarts the very noble ends of justice."

"Trial Live On TV To Explode Saddam Myth"

Bernardo Valli noted from Baghdad in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/19):  "Justice must be done, there is no doubt about that.  However, international justice would have been more appropriate....  To do justice regarding Saddam is a sacrosanct duty.  But the former dictator is being displayed like a war trophy right at a time when there is no reason whatsoever to sing victory."

"Gallows Prepared For Saddam May Re-Ignite Sunni Fuse"

Elite, center-left daily Il Riformista editorialized (10/19):  "Over the next few hours, the Sunnis may be watching a doubly sad spectacle:  Kurds and Shiites rejoicing over the approval of the Constitution, and, simultaneously, Saddam Hussein’s trial.  Such a combination could give new strength to the most intransigent voices among former Baathists, the main component of the nationalistic guerrilla war.  And it could provoke a massive campaign of tragic demonstrations.  Perhaps it would have been better not to hold the Saddam trial right after a referendum vote that leaves the Sunnis with a bitter taste in their mouths.  Apart from nostalgic feelings for the former dictator, the Sunnis know that their fate is linked to their ability to politically negotiate an institutional solution for the new Iraq.  The referendum has clipped their wings.  Saddam’s trial...which comes a few days after the disappointment over the referendum vote, risks to reunite the [Sunni] community around a symbol.  A sad fate for Iraq’s historical dominators, that makes the long and difficult Iraqi transition still incomplete."

"Baghdad, A Dictator At the Bar"

Left-leaning, influential La Repubblica noted (10/18):  "Saddam is still seen by the Sunni community as the symbol of a trampled-on pride.  The Shiites and Kurds want him condemned to a death sentence.  There is a risk that the trial will be shrouded in vendettas, even though many international jurists will be present to guarantee equilibrium and tranquility."

RUSSIA:  "The Iraqi Puzzle"

Reformist Izvestiya editorialized (10/19):  "Today the world will have one of its bloodiest dictators brought to justice....  Saddam's crimes were doubtless crimes against humanity, and the world can't but feel satisfied, seeing the tyrant answer for them in accordance with Iraqi law.  But feeling satisfied can't hide the fact that the situation in Iraq and the world has not improved since the U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam.  In fact, it has become worse....  Saddam was called an international terrorist, but at least after the Gulf War, he posed no danger to the outside world, being a threat only to his own people.  Iraq has become a Mecca for international terrorists who kill both foreigners and Iraqis....  The lesson to be drawn from this story seems obvious:  the modern-day world can't stand vampires like Saddam, but the ways to get rid of them need to be thought out carefully, with account taken of possible side effects, and coordinated with the UN to make them legitimate."

AUSTRIA:  "Saddam Must Not Become A Martyr"

Foreign affairs writer Stefan Galoppi observed in mass-circulation Kurier (10/19):  "The problem with Saddam's trial is not so much its moral justification, which many victims will follow with satisfaction, but its practical realization.  Can the Iraqi judges and prosecutors of the special tribunal, who are not well known and have little experience, guarantee a fair trial under the existing conditions?  Will they also look into the potentially embarrassing issue of former supporters of Saddam Hussein in the West?  Can they free themselves from the influence of the U.S., which is financing the tribunal, and rebut charges of a victor's justice?  If the general impression was that the trial is not about justice but the solution of a political problem--possibly by passing a quick death sentence--the consolidation of Iraq would become even more difficult.  The Sunnis who dominated under Saddam feel backed into a corner as it is.  A martyr would simply fan their resistance."

BELGIUM:  "Iraq, Between Democracy, Catharsis, and Chaos"

Baudouin Loos held in left-of-center Le Soir (10/18):  "We must admit that this Constitution is a revolution in the region....  But, in addition to the fact that a text is not everything--on paper, Tunisia is also extremely democratic--there are other weaknesses, such as the role of Islam as the main source of legislation, which can lead to contradictions....  As for Saddam Hussein’s trial, a hasty judgment of the ousted dictator might trigger feelings of frustration and increase antagonism between communities....  Will there be other trials to try the Baath regime’s terrible crimes?  That is desirable.  Both for a national catharsis and in order to show the Western world’s complicity with Saddam Hussein, when Europe and America were turning a blind eye in the name of the fight against Khomeini’s Iran and were holding their nose for cynical business reasons."

CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Trial Smacking Of Politics"

Adam Cerny commented in the business daily Hospodarske noviny (10/19):  "In the trial of Saddam Hussein, allegations of the tribunal bias are voiced more and more often claiming that it is the winners who control justice in Baghdad....  We must, however, also reverse this logic.  If it were not for the invasion it would now be Saddam and his sons who would rule over the lives and deaths of the Iraqi people.  It will not be easy to prove their crimes; definitely not as easy as it was to commit them for years....  Even in communist Czechoslovakia, the former mighty and powerful were very careful not to put their signature under anything that looked like trouble.  Fortunately, there exists clear evidence in the case of a previously little known village of Dujail, the inhabitants of which the dictator personally ordered to be massacred....  Never mind, even if it is just this one crime he is accused of, justice will be carried out.  Courts should stand above politics.  In Saddam’s case, however, this just cannot be, because the conflict between those for and against the invasion in Iraq will always be brought into the picture."

FINLAND:  "Even A Defective Trial Against Saddam Valuable"

Finland’s leading daily, centrist Helsingin Sanomat editorial (10/20):  "One the world’s bloodiest tyrants over the past decades, a torturer and murderer of thousands, has been brought to justice.  There is, however, a bitter flavor to the trial.  It is held in country that does not fully meet the criteria of a state, and in a judicial system that is still incomplete....  The role of Washington as financier and overall background figure in the process is still great.  As the U.S. conducted the invasion of Iraq--also illegal--for the purpose of overturning Saddam Hussein, the trial is not entirely free of the impression of revenge by the victorious party.  In this regard, it might have been better if the dictator had been brought in front of an international court under the UN.  Both the occupiers and the Iraqis themselves regarded it as important to have Saddam sentenced at home.  The argument according to which the decision on the fate of Saddam, the oppressor of the Iraqis, should be made by the Iraqis is politically and morally understandable.  It is not possible to avoid flaws in a case like this.  Saddam could not simply be killed upon arrest, nor expelled, nor sentenced for life without a trial.  The trial allows the public recording of a long series of crimes of which he is guilty beyond doubt.  Technicalities are insignificant compared to that achievement."

IRELAND:  "Tension High In Baghdad"

Lara Marlowe observed from Baghdad in the center-left Irish Times (10/19):  "The trial of the fallen Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein...could be the trial of the century or a political, strategic and judicial fiasco....  The U.S., which created the special tribunal...has carefully engineered regulations so that the trial may not be used to incriminate the American and European officials who gave Saddam money, weapons, intelligence and diplomatic support for his war against Iran."

POLAND:  "Accounting For Hussein"

Jerzy Haszczynski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/20):  "Tyrants and dictators who killed and harassed their fellow citizens for years cannot sleep in peace.  Saddam Hussein, one of them, was brought to court yesterday.  On the first day, he demonstrated his arrogance and questioned the authority of the court....  It will not be an easy trial as there are many voices even in the West articulating objections in regard to the court....  International organizations and media criticize the court’s procedures and the very tribunal as being dominated by representatives of the communities that were oppressed under [Saddam’s] dictatorship.  It is essential that such criticism should not overshadow the need for an accounting of the criminal regime.  Certainly, Iraq is not a fully sovereign state, as the Americans play a significant role over there, and as fights and attacks continue.  But there is no other Iraq, and the trial cannot wait for peace and democracy to triumph.  Actually, this very trial can help make such a triumph happen.  Without accounting with the past, without calling evil an evil, we cannot expect it.  This concerns not only Iraq, and not only Saddam Hussein."

ROMANIA:  "Doomsday For Saddam"

Madalina Mitan commented in financial daily Curentul (10/19):  "The publicity of Saddam’s trial might prove to be disastrous, at a time when democracy is fragile following the Constitution referendum.  Even if many Iraqis hate Saddam, they also hate the evolution of events since his departure, and especially the fact that the Sunnis feel threatened by the American occupation.  The former dictator’s trial runs the risk of identifying the defensive reflexes of the Iraq Sunnis. ...  The Sunni community, to which the former Iraqi president belongs, feels targeted by this process, strongly defending itself against accusations that...it wants the latter to return.  Basically, it will all depend on the TV broadcast of the trial, because hearing Saddam testify is one thing...and seeing him handcuffed...without hearing what he says, is another."

SLOVAKIA:  "Trial Of Saddam Hussein"

Ruti Teitel judged in center-right, independent Sme (10/19):  "So far, all the signals suggest that the trial will hardly achieve its ambitious goals....  The lack of legitimate institutions [in Iraq] necessary for the restoration of legal order is clearly visible in the debate about what body should try and pass a verdict over Saddam Hussein....  The close link between the special court and the successor regime backed by the U.S. carries a number of pitfalls.  Criminal responsibility in the transition period must be broad enough to unite Iraq, and therefore it must embrace also Shia and Kurdish crimes against humanity, while obviously making sure that it does not cause the U.S. and its allies any problems in connection with their trading deals with Saddam's regime....  Saddam's trial will thus reveal the limited possibilities of the law to initiate a regime change."

SPAIN:  "Guilty, But Not Like This"

Left-of-center El País held (10/20):  "The opening yesterday of the trial against the dictator didn't respond to the minimum criteria of a worthy trial in a country that is supposed to be in transition to democracy:  a court organized by the U.S. and the current Iraqi government, located inside a security zone in Baghdad, with a defense (team) which hasn't had time to prepare itself, with some witness afraid to testify...and laws that borrow what is convenient from both the old laws of the overthrown regime and from international law....  Lately, the Bush administration hasn't seemed to be scrupulous in matters respecting legality and international justice.  And it has been the 'zero American cooperation' in the clarification of the death...of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso in Baghdad...that has made the High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz issue an international arrest warrant against the [American] sergeant that shot against the Palestine hotel, the captain responsible for the armored unit, and the lieutenant that was in the command of the regiment."

"Iraq, Ahead"

Conservative ABC editorialized (10/19):  "The high rate of participation in the referendum...and the affirmative vote from the majority of provinces demonstrates a bet on the future from this country which has decided to turn the page and overcome the hangover from their conflict...that actively continues.  In that context of hope, today's start of the trial of Saddam Hussein brings another test to the weak democratic structure in Iraq, not only because one of the most despicable tyrants in the Middle East will be judged, but also because an exemplary process will affect the reputation of the incipient democracy that aspires to be a real democracy." 

SWEDEN:  "The Court Is The Right Place For The Dictator"

Conservative Svenska Dagbladet editorialized (10/20):  "The fact that the dictator is now being tried means that his victims will have some kind of redress.  Judging from voices of the relatives the only right thing would be a verdict of guilty.  Saddam Hussein certainly can be declared guilty in advance.  He is guilty and qualifies for a place in the chamber of horrors among the worst political evildoers in history.  But everyone has the right to a fair trial....  There is reason for concern that elements of the legal process do not meet international demands of evidence.  But the openness will be a guarantee of justice."

MIDDLE EAST

IRAQ:  "The Trial"

Dr. Ali Khalif opined in SCIRI-affiliated Al-Adala (10/19):  "What we should realize about this tribunal is that it does not represent revenge against Saddam, who ruled Iraq through sectarianism, or against his policies but rather it’s a trial of a civilian leader for crimes committed against his own people.  Iraqis have a right to rush their demands to hang Saddam even without a trial and they are eager for the moment when they see him in the dock.  They believe that this is the right judgment for the victims of his massacres and the random execution of innocent Iraqis.  Iraqis believe that he does not deserve a fair and public trial, and more precisely that he does not deserve to be treated with justice.  The Iraqi Special Tribunal is the appropriate forum to examine the crimes committed in mass graves resulting in the martyrs of Al-Anfal and Halabja.  Iraqis are trying to rebuild the rule of law through a legitimate trial.  Some have accused this tribunal of being a weak forum--an institution unwilling to hang Saddam under pressure from those who only want a life sentence.  This is a conspiracy theory the former regime has propagated.  Iraqis should believe that Saddam is of no more use to anyone, he has been in prison for two years now, and this is a real trial and the judge must hand him an execution sentence."

"Saddam Tells Tyrants to Beware"

Sarum Al-Faili wrote this on the Sawt Al-Iraq website, produced by Faili Kurds, not affiliated with any political party (10/19):  "Saddam will stand trial today in front of Iraqis.  There will be photos and footage of the man who previously put all courts of justice on hold and ran everything through his military intelligence [apparatus].  Today the tyrant stands without power, wealth, or good deeds.  God willing, he will be condemned to hell...and go on to remember the many crimes that he committed, including the gassing of Muslim Kurds.  Let’s turn this trial into a triumph of the weak who were unable to take a stand for themselves, into a rejection of sectarianism, racism, and bloody Baathism embodied in Saddam.  Today, rationalism, realism, diversity, and democracy emerge victorious; Saddam was their enemy.  It is the moment of justice for many lives raped; bodies torn apart; many widows; grieving mothers; and orphans suffering fear and deprivation.  By trying the tyrant, we condemn those who contributed to--or overlooked--the suffering of innocent people.  I am sure that all tyrants will spend their nights haunted by the suppression of their nations after seeing Saddam in the defendant’s cage.  It might be an opportunity for them to change, but a very difficult opportunity for those in power and those who seek to regain it in Iraq."

"From Referendum To Saddam"

Ja’far Mohammed Ahmed penned this on the Independent Iraqi News Agency website (10/19):  "The constitutional referendum passed more peacefully and calmly than expected.....  Iraq chose democracy in its own unique way--not as American President George Bush would like....  Iraqis used the referendum to prove that they are the opinion-holders and they determine Iraq’s future, not the American occupation that deceived them with false promises and dreams that turned into nightmares.  [American] falsehoods were revealed just like the weak justification used to invade Iraq....  Iraqis overcame the constitution battle and now they face former president Saddam Hussein’s trial....  It is undoubtedly an exciting trial and it will bring back painful memories and anger.  The paradox is that the trial, which took so long to begin, comes four days after the constitutional referendum.  Will it pass peacefully, unaccompanied by bloody, violent acts that deepen Iraqi wounds and return Iraq to the very beginning?  Between the referendum and Saddam’s trial, Iraqis, along with Arabs and Muslims, hope Iraq will move beyond the painful past and bring back security, which has been lost during the American occupation.  The referendum’s result is the people’s decision; Saddam’s trial is the responsibility of the judiciary."

SAUDI ARABIA:  "The Trial Of The Century"

Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (10/20):  "Although some observers link the timing of the trial of Saddam Hussein and the date of the referendum on the Iraqi constitution...nobody denies that the trial in itself is a trial of a certain political ideology, which dominated Iraq for several decades.  It has become necessary, at least from a historical point, to review the destructive results of that political ideology....  Saddam Hussein's trial is a real shock to the current Arab situation."

"Saddam In The Dock"

Jeddah’s English-language Arab News remarked (10/20):  "The contempt with which Saddam treated the Iraqi court yesterday reflected the disdain he demonstrated in his glory days for all Iraqis, every one of whom was under his control."

"Saddam’s Trial Raises Many Questions"

Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad observed (10/20):  "Like the new Iraqi constitution, about which the referendum results have not been announced, the trial of Saddam Hussein does not enjoy sufficient Iraqi consensus....  Many observers see that this trial should be postponed until the new Iraqi constitution is in place...so as to bring Saddam Hussein before an honest, unbiased judge."

"Trial Of Saddam"

Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (10/19):  "The screen is open, the actors are ready, and the public is busy....  The Trial that the Iraqis have been waiting for has lost its glitter....  Iraqis at this crucial time do not care about Saddam’s trial....  Many Iraqis hate Saddam but they also hate how things turned out in their country and the humiliations they are suffering....  Saddam’s trial can be described as a mockery....  The U.S. has made use of Saddam’s trial to achieve special gains and impose its presence....  The outcome of the trial may support American plans in Iraq."

"The Trial Of The Age"

Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina judged (10/19):  "Western human rights groups and legal experts have warned the former dictator is unlikely to get a fair trial....  Who was providing Saddam with the gas and helped him use it in the annihilation of a whole Kurdish village?  Who imposed the ban on Iraq that resulted in the death of more than a million children?  Who is still killing Iraqis now?  There is no doubt that Saddam was a dictator who killed thousands and thousands, but one should not forget there are many Saddams in this world."

"The Trial of Saddam Hussein"

London-based, Arabi nationalist Al-Quds Al-Arabi editorialized (Internet version, 10/19):  "The trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein...will be the most prominent test of the U.S. administration and its concept of justice.....  The Iraqi role in his trial is near marginal because the Iraqis have no say in its proceedings and their role is limited to appearing before the cameras and doing what is required of them....  Supporters of the Shiite-Kurdish coalition, which currently governs Iraq, seek a quick trial ending with the hanging of the defendants...while the opponents of this coalition and of the occupation...believe that the trial will not be fair....  The U.S. government failed in all tests of democracy and human rights and enjoys a near zero credibility in various parts of the Arab world.  It is not expected to pass this test of the trial of Saddam with marks qualifying it for success.  The Iraqis remember the United States' promises of prosperity, affluence, democracy, and respect for freedoms and human rights. They see that what is taking place on the ground totally contradicts these promises....  Today's trial might not take a long time.  It may be adjourned five minutes after its opening for two key reasons.  First, the U.S. administration does not want to give former President Saddam a platform to expose its crimes and lies in Iraq and to appear as a defiant and steadfast hero.  Second, the timing of the trial does not suit the U.S. political agenda in Iraq, while results of the referendum on the constitution have not been announced yet, amid charges of forgery in the Sunni areas, the heartland of support for the former Iraqi president.  The U.S. administration will remain accused of lacking justice because any trial held under the spears of occupation forces by collaborators of these forces will not be fair."

"Saddam Trial"

The English-language, pro-government Saudi Gazette remarked (Internet version, 10/19):  "For many Iraqis baying for vengeance on the former dictator, the trial process will not matter as much as its outcome they want him dead.  Yet for many others, the trial itself will serve as a key test of the country's ability to establish a democratic institution....  American assistance and training to the tribunal...undermines the tribunal's independence....  The trial process itself is flawed.  Investigative judges have compiled most of the evidence behind closed doors....  The evidence does not have to be produced at the trial and lawyers and witnesses have less prominent roles....  No doubt the man needs to be sent to the gallows but the process to bring this about needs to be beyond reproach so as to set a precedent for an independent judiciary that guarantees democracy in free Iraq.  This, however, is far-fetched at this point given past U.S. dealings with Saddam who was once an ally, and the dangerous division in the insurgency-wracked country on the question of its constitutional lifeline."

ALGERIA:  "Saddam Wants A Political Trial"

Abdelkrim Ghezali observed in independent, French-language La Tribune (Internet version, 10/19):  "With the former head of the fallen state not recognizing the new order that was established in Iraq by the Americans and their allies, he is insisting on making of the trial...his last anti-American work.....  Saddam knows he will be found guilty.  He knows he has committed crimes against the Iraqi people and that he handed Iraq over to the coalition members for having refused to resign when many countries had asked this of him in order to spare Iraq a war machine that was determined to do away with him and his regime.  Above all, he knows that he made many enemies for himself among the Iraqi people, notably the Shia and the Kurds, who were savagely repressed under him....  Saddam knows all this but wants to turn up his nose at it so as to defend only his person, which he has decided to turn into the symbol of a country, a nation, and indeed beyond that, since he thinks that his aura is intact....  Saddam wants to give political cachet to his trial since he wants to present himself as the victim of a coup d'etat orchestrated by Washington and London.....  What he most hopes for is that his trial will be an opportunity for the street demonstrations to resume in England and the United States and everywhere in the West, with the goal of seeing the foreign troops leave an Iraq that is still unstable, uncertain, and fragile....  In sum, Saddam, who risks the death penalty, is hoping until the last moment that a force, even be it al-Qaida, will overturn the situation in Iraq.  After that, everything might be possible."

LEBANON:  "Saddam’s Trial:  A Lost Opportunity"

Joseph Samaha opined in Arab nationalist As-Safir (10/20):  "Saddam’s trial was not supposed to take place under these conditions.  It was supposed to take place in a cured Iraq--in a Iraq which, because of the occupation--should have been able to look down from its prosperous position to its bloody past and learn how to go ahead towards a bright future....  The trial should have been similar to a unanimous examination of the conscience in which Iraq would be able to remove the impact of past sins, and learn, in the international school of law, how to embrace a democratic era....  For the trial to be meaningful, the occupation should have been successful....  A successful occupation in the sense that the occupation should have left behind a country that has regained its dignity, freedom, institutions, authority and a fair judicial system.  Saddam’s trial, however, has lost its brightness because the occupation has committed a crimes and grave mistakes....  There is no doubt that Saddam should be put on trial, however, putting him on trial has become a missed opportunity that has lost its curative qualities and its (supposed) ability to teach us about democracy."

"Saddam’s Trial:  Absurdity In A Tragedy"

Rafiq Khoury judged in centrist Al-Anwar (10/20):  "Absurdity was apparent at the beginning of the trial where reality mixed with imagination:  the reality of the accused and the imagination of the ruler; the reality of the judges and the absurdity of their situation:  on one hand, Saddam refused to identify himself and refused to acknowledge the court.  On the other hand, the judges are serious but they listen to the accused accusing them and judging them.  The tragedy however, was apparent in the image of the two Iraq(s).  The first Iraq was ruled by Saddam’s terror, and mass graves.  Its citizens want revenge....  The second Iraq is ruled by the occupation and is ravaged by explosions and terrorism....  It is difficult to expect a fair trial...but the most important issue is not Saddam’s fate, but rather Iraq’s fate."

TUNISIA:  "The Game Has Not Ended"

Independent Ash-Shourouq contended (10/18):  "The game has not ended as the imprisoned Iraqi president appears before a court that does not resemble any other court, since it has no constitutional relevance and does not follow internal or international laws....  The scenario of aggression against Iraq's legitimacy continues."

UAE:  "In Iraq, A Trial Of A Trial"

The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News editorialized (Internet version, 10/19):  "The trial of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein...is not just a trial of the person but of the very judicial system itself....  Although the Iraqi judiciary is confident of being able to conduct a trial that will meet international standards, there are many jurists who think otherwise....  With the world sitting in judgment upon Saddam and the Iraqi judicial system, the trial should be seen to be fair and in accordance with international standards.  Anything less will be a permanent scar upon Iraq and its future.  The trial procedures and conduct must be beyond reproach in every way, for there are Iraqis who still support Saddam, who are waiting to seize upon any opportunity to wreak vengeance, for whatever reason."

"Trying Saddam"

The English-language, expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times judged (Internet version, 10/17):  "We must desist from interpreting the change of guard in Baghdad and the trial of Saddam in terms of Shia-Sunni struggle.  What matters to the people of Iraq, whether they are Sunni or Shia or Kurd, and to the rest of the world is a fair trial and justice.  Iraq’s new leaders must take great care not to turn this whole thing into an example or showcase of changing power equations in the country.  Such an approach would further divide the already divided Iraqi society....  It is not Saddam Hussein who goes on trial on Wednesday but the ability of Iraq’s new rulers to bring justice to someone who has never been known for his faith in justice.  Justice must prevail."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA:  "Trial Of The Century"

The national conservative Australian editorialized (10/20):  "The trial of Saddam Hussein, which began in Baghdad yesterday, is momentous for Iraq, the Middle East and the world.  It is the first court case brought against an Arab dictator for crimes against his own people and will be the most prominent case against a mass murderer since the Nuremberg trials following World War II....  There has been considerable international criticism, some of it justified, of the process established for trying Saddam.  A proceeding at the International Criminal Court for war crimes in The Hague was not feasible, and not only because neither the U.S. nor Iraq are signatories to the court.  It has no authority to try crimes committed before July 2002.  Instead, Saddam will be tried by the 20 investigative and five trial judges of the Iraqi Special Tribunal.  This is an untried process, minted specifically for Saddam and his henchmen, but the judges have been drilled in procedure by an international panel of jurists....  It is immensely important that Saddam receive the scrupulously fair and open trial he denied his own victims.  Like last weekend's referendum on a new federal constitution, the Saddam trial is a rite of passage for Iraqis and a beacon for all those across the Middle East who continue to have their political and human rights denied by despots."

"On Trial In Iraq, The Case For Freedom"

The liberal Age of Melbourne observed (10/20):  "The false justification for invading Iraq in March 2003 and colossal misjudgments about the course of postwar events do not alter the importance of establishing democratic rule or of ensuring a just trial.  It is vital for Iraqis and the global community--for reasons of security, harmony and justice--that these great tasks be done properly....  It is regrettable that charges of crimes against humanity are not being heard in an international tribunal.  If the idea is to expedite the humiliation of a tyrant in the hope of ending the insurgency, this could be yet another serious misjudgment.  It would be best for Iraq, and for a world in which other tyrants are still at large, if proper processes were followed from the outset."

CHINA:  "Influence Of Saddam Trial On Iraq Not Big"

The Shanghai Morning Post (Xinwen Chenbao) commented (Internet version, 10/19):  "The trial of Saddam...has attracted the attention of the whole world, however, its influence on the situation in Iraq will be extremely limited....  Analysts generally think that even if Saddam is sentenced to death, it will have repercussions in Iraq and even the whole Middle East region in the sort term, but the case itself cannot basically improve the current security situation in Iraq....  If Saddam is sentenced to death, it will more easily provoke negative repercussions from [Sunnis], which may lead to an intensified struggle between Iraqi sects."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

BANGLADESH:  "Saddam's On Trial:  Justice Ignored"

Independent Bangla-language Shamokal commented (10/20):  "The trial of ousted President Saddam Hussein and seven of his assistants has begun in a special tribunal....  The main question is whether Saddam will get justice.  The more important question whether the Ahmed Chalabi government (sic) has the authority to hold the trial of Saddam Hussein.  The Iraqi government is nothing but a puppet of the occupation forces....  The type of indictment against Saddam Hussein reminds us of the story of the wolf and the lamb.  The main intention of the wolf was to kill the lamb.  Similarly, the intention of the U.S. is to hang Saddam.  It is assumed that the verdict has already been set whatever the indictments are.  There are doubts about the judicial process.  The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and the UK-based Amnesty International have expressed suspicion about the process.  Saddam may have committed many crimes, but who will try Saddam?  Only a court formed under a representative government has the right to try him.  The judicial process should be stopped to uphold human rights."

IRAN:  "Need To Expedite Indictment Against Saddam"

Yusef Mohsenzadeh had this to say in Tehran's conservative-traditionalist Abrar (10/15):  "The Kuwaitis provided a long list of indictments against Saddam...[and] have asked for the death penalty for Saddam and at least eight his deputies and aides....  These attempts by the Kuwaitis are worthy of imitation.  Even though it is late, an order by the head of the Judiciary to prepare a bill of indictment against Saddam and collecting evidence and documents related to the Iraqis' crimes against our country is a must.  Right now, speed is very important.  If this indictment is prepared by next week and sent to Baghdad by diplomatic means, we can be hopeful that our rights will be considered. B ut we should note that the Iraqis are trying to limit the indictments against Saddam by considering the death penalty for him....  Under such circumstances, even the Kuwaitis' indictments may not stand....  But all this does not mean that Iran should not prepare a quick indictment against Saddam.  This...can be the most valid document for the compensation of our losses, both financial and human, from the crimes of the Iraqis....  Saddam's conviction in any court with Iran's and Kuwait's indictments can be a moral victory for both countries."

"Americans Don't Want Saddam Executed"

Pro-Khatami, English-language Iran News stated (10/18):  "Skeptical observers opine that even if a quick verdict is handed down on Saddam, it will not be carried out....  Americans don't want Saddam executed now because they want to milk as much political capital out of his trial as possible....  These pessimistic analysts are of the view that Saddam's verdict is unlikely to ever be carried out, and, more likely than not he will die in prison of natural causes before being hanged."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "More Than Saddam Is On Trial"

Michael Marrus commented in the leading, centrist Globe and Mail (10/18):  "How will the trial of Saddam Hussein commend itself to posterity?  Much will depend on the procedures followed, including fairness to the accused--and on this we need to wait and see.  But, as for the trial's wider pedagogic purposes, there are both worrying signs and serious structural defects.  The three-judge Iraqi panel that will decide Mr. Hussein's fate will certainly have difficulty establishing its credibility as an independent tribunal.....  Quite unlike Nuremberg...where there was no doubt about the independence of those sitting in judgment, legitimate questions have been raised about whether the Iraqi panel meets international standards in this respect....  Charged with the massacre of Iraqis in 1982, the Iraqi dictator will surely point to how closely associated he was, immediately afterward, with the United States, now the leading voice, after the Iraqi government, in identifying Mr. Hussein's crimes against the Iraqi people....  As with Nuremberg, when the accused denounced the Allies for their own criminality, Mr. Hussein's lawyers will almost certainly accuse coalition forces of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Undeserving though these arguments may be when compared with the scale of Mr. Hussein's atrocities, their exclusion via the tribunal's statute is likely to leave a very bad taste."

"Justice For Saddam"

The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (Internet version, 10/17):  "Whatever one's view of the American invasion to unseat Saddam, who unlike Osama bin Ladin did not threaten the United States, Iraqis now have a freely elected government and the rule of law.  They have every right to try [Saddam].  A panel of Iraqi judges will preside over what inevitably will be a 'show trial' that will put the former regime's crimes on display and dissuade other would-be despots.  But that will be the case only if Saddam's trial is seen to be fair and open, and not an act of political vengeance in the midst of American occupation and Sunni insurgency.  That is far from assured.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has already pronounced a verdict....  An unfair trial might perversely heighten Saddam's status with some Sunnis as a martyr, rather than expose his evil.  And his potential execution could have the same effect....  It would be politically convenient to hang Saddam.  For many Iraqis, it would be retribution for the suffering he inflicted.  But the world has largely rejected the death penalty as inherently barbarous, as capricious and as an ineffective deterrent.  If Iraqis want to turn the page decisively on their recent, bloody past, and join most other democratic countries, they can begin by not stooping to Saddam's level.  If he is convicted, he should spend the rest of his wretched life behind bars, contemplating his crimes, and his ruin."

BRAZIL:  "The Defendant Saddam Hussein"

Liberal Folha de S.Paulo editorialized (10/19):  "Saddam's conviction is a sure thing.  He may not be guilty of all the crimes of which he will be accused, but there is no question he is behind countless capital crimes....  There are several indications that Saddam's trial will not be as fair as it should...his judges and accusers were also his victims...the trial will be broadcast on TV, but...any indiscretions may be censored....  But the fact Saddam is finally being brought to trial is one of the few positive effects of the the Iraq invasion by the U.S."

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