Saddam Trial –Another Western Kangaroo Court

“It's all about justifying the US invasion"- A top Swiss legal expert

By K Gajendra Singh

10/20/05 "
ICH" -- -- The charade trial of illegally toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by yet another Western organized Kangroo court finally opened under a veil of secrecy on 19 October and was adjourned to 28 November. Saddam Hussein was defiant and claimed that he was the legitimate President of Iraq as he had done when he was first charged in July, 2004. (TRIAL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN & THE RULE OF LAW ). He and six co-defendants are accused of killing 143 people after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on him in 1982. Western media was miffed at the show of defiance by the combative and aggressive former Iraqi leader.

Saddam is not the first eastern leader nor would he be the last to be so demonized and humiliated. It is an old western technique against its opponents. Others are North Irish leaders, humiliated by the British and CIA’s once own man in Panama, dictator Noriega and Slobodan Milosevic with whom the West did business. Captive western media gave full coverage when Milosevic was being charged but once he started hitting back at his accusers, the coverage vanished.

Before the December 1971 war of liberation of Bangladesh, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Indians were called “old witch “ and “ bastards and a slippery, treacherous people” by US President Richard Nixon and his aide Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office , because USA sided with its ally Gen. Yahya Khan of Pakistan who had let loose a reign of terror on Bengalis; their leaders Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman had won the elections and wanted to form a government.

Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and a staunch friend of India , who consistently supported India on Kashmir and other issues .

US corporate and British government media outlets have already tried to convict Saddam by playing up the Halabja massacres and other accusations which are not even part of this trial. When unsubstantiated allegations were made that Iraq was behind the plot to kill former US President George H.W Bush in Kuwait , father of the current US President in 1993 , President Bill Clinton had hit Iraq with missiles. Why no charges against him!


The current Iraqi interim government was installed by the US Occupation forces and is composed of former CIA and MI5 intelligence agents , convicted embezzlers , foreign passport holders and other quislings and Iranian supporters. Billions of dollars of revenue from sale of Iraqi oil has been looted by US authorities and its Iraqi collaborators. The trial has aroused little interest among the Iraqis except among some who were prosecuted by him. But the world knows how US leadership and its policies are disliked and hated in Arab and Muslim world and elsewhere.


Most Iraqis are worried about lack of security , lack of electric power and water , still un-repaired sewage disposal , medical and other infra-structure 30 months after US invasion destroyed it , over 50% unemployment , kidnappings for ransoms , daily random killings and almost a raging civil war .


It is just another diversionary tactic by US Administration faced with its occupation turned into a horrible quagmire , which has shaken even the neo-cons citadels in Washington  ,  Katrina hurricane after math which exposed the ugly underbelly of US corporate distorted polity and other  policies , which have made George W. Bush the most unpopular  President in recent history , so early in his second term , with polls going up even for his impeachment ,if he misled the US people in his War on Iraq.

Saddam’s chief lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, an Iraqi with little experience of major cases, including crimes against humanity, challenged the legitimacy of the court. He asked for 3 months adjournment for preparations of the defence .The legal team backing Dulaimi from London had said earlier that he would present a 122-point document seeking to show that the court, whose judges were chosen under US occupation, does not have the jurisdiction.

The chief investigative judge, only 34 years old , has prepared the charges. His team sifted through tonnes of documents and interviewed hundreds of witnesses. He says the trial could help establish the rule of law[!] in Iraq. Names of the judges were not disclosed except the chief judge, a Kurd , natural enemies of Sunni Arabs to which community Saddam belongs. Western experts and media said that this case was taken up because it is the easiest to prove. But an Arab expert on Arab law interviewed by BBC said that the Arab law under which the trial would take place would make it difficult to convict him as it would recognize Saddam Hussein as the President , who enjoyed the immunity .BBC anchor looked dismayed as generally Western friendly experts are called for comments..


“Wonderful material for a US television series but nothing to do with a fair trial,” Swiss legal expert


Marc Henzelin , Professor  of international law at Geneva University told Swiss Sonntags Zeitung newspaper why he declined to defend Saddam Hussein, who was removed by US led invasion of Iraq , described illegal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as it was against the wishes of the international body.


Prof Marc Henzelin, who was asked by Mrs Hussein to defend her husband in Iraq’s special tribunal  declined because assurances that his defence was a legal and not a political matter, guarantees to talk to other lawyers to coordinate the defence and that the trial was not turned into a circus show were refused .” Under such circumstances a trial risks becoming nothing more than a show, “he said .


Asked if Saddam trial was similar to the Nuremberg tribunals after the Second World War , he said ,” In both cases it is the victors holding court over the losers. But the difference is that the trials of Nuremberg had a historic goal. They wanted to get as close as possible to the truth about the Nazi crimes.” But in this case ,” It is the exact opposite. The trial focuses on a small part of the criminal record of the Iraqi regime, and the Iraqi population feels highly emotional about it.”


“I think it is all about justifying the United States' invasion of Iraq and to string Saddam Hussein up sooner rather than later without asking too many questions.”

Prof Henzelin who has 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer and visited Baghdad 12 times over the past two years added that investigating magistrates were killed, as well as witnesses and evidence was destroyed during the war. He said that 90 per cent of what was actually going on would not be decided in the courtroom, but during the investigation.


He added  ,”What's the point of a trial if the defence has not been able to take part in the investigations? Or if it is not possible to call witnesses to the stand because they were executed or have to fear for their lives?”

”The trial of Saddam might provide wonderful material for a US television series with a lawyer and a prosecutor crossing swords. But this has got nothing to do with a fair trial.”


The Special tribunals set up were completely against international law. According to the Geneva and the Hague Conventions [on international law for humanitarian concern and the protection of cultural property in armed conflicts] this court is clearly illegal. Occupying powers have no right to change the legal system of a country. This is precisely what the US has done.

”What's more, the judges were not elected but appointed by the occupying powers. They flew in a nephew of Mr Chalabi [Salem Chalabi's uncle Ahmed led the foremost Iraqi opposition movement, the US-backed Iraqi National Congress]. He was a lawyer in London specialising in commercial law. Later he was appointed president of the Iraqi special tribunal.”[Ahmed Chalabi is a convicted embezzler in Jordan. As Seymour Hersh revealed Bush had asked King Abdullah of Jordan during a visit to Washington that he should pardon Chalabi. One wonders what the King’s reaction was to this outrageous suggestion. ]


“Compared to this at the Nuremberg trial the four victorious powers at least assigned their best judges to the task,” said Marc Henzelin


“Grave concerns .. no fair trial guarantees” Human Rights Watch


Human Rights Watch said that the trial and those that follow could present ... an unprecedented opportunity to provide some measure of truth and justice for hundreds of thousands of victims of human rights violations that occurred in Iraq between 1979 and 2003," but it was open to serious doubt. The tribunal's procedures would prove to be neither impartial nor independent, defence lawyers were at a crippling disadvantage, and the outcome had already been grossly prejudiced by Iraqi and US politicians and media.


Richard Dicker ,director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program in his piece  “Give Iraq justice, not vengeance” in the International Herald Tribune wrote .”There are several significant human rights shortcomings in the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal law. If these are not addressed, they could undercut internationally guaranteed rights and jeopardize the legitimacy of the proceedings. “

Jalal Talabani, now Iraq's president, has already said on TV "Saddam Hussein is a war criminal and he deserves to be executed 20 times a day for his crimes against humanity," Talabani heads one of the two Kurdish formations , mostly at odds with each other .Since the end of 1991 war in March , Iraqi Kurdistan has remained almost defacto US protectorate . The Iraqi forces could not assert its sovereignty over the region before the US led invasion .What justice would you expect? Such statements are as credible as those of communist party rulers in East Europe under Soviet control.  But then even US and UK leaders have made similar statements and allowed such statements by Iraq’s quisling leadership when visiting.

Sonya Sceats, a legal expert at Chatham House in London, said: "The politics surrounding the establishment of the court have raised particular concerns about the level of American influence." "Irrespective of its veracity, the perception of the court as a disguised vehicle for US retribution is likely to colour Saddam's defence," Ms Sceats said. "He has already insisted that [it] will be a political show trial. 'I do not want to make you feel uneasy,' he told the judge during proceedings in July 2004, 'but you know this is all theatre by Bush.'"

USA has granted $128 m (73 m) for investigations and prosecutions of Ba'athist officials.” The US-established regime crimes liaison office has played a leading role in interviewing "high-value detainees" and preparing evidence.” UK has provided 1.3m.

It is public knowledge that because USA is a major donor how it arm twists UN when it does not comply with its dictates , some times even because of USA’s internal party politics . It even refused to pay its share and Kofi Annan had literally to beg and cajole the US congress to pay up its obligations . It even withdrew from UNESCO for not bowing to its dictates.

Europe Union countries refused partly on the plea of the tribunal's likely resort to the death penalty. Turkey had to remove the death penalty from its statutes last year before EU would agree to a date for entry negotiations .Many US states have death penalty , including Texas, where as governor , George Bush got carried out many death sentences. It comes naturally to USA.

Coalition officials point out that the postwar Iraqi justice system was incapable of mounting trials of this magnitude without outside assistance. Then why the immediacy. Most experts believe  that an international tribunal on a neutral ground would have been a better option because of Saddam's alleged crimes against humanity were essentially international in nature, they argue, including attacks on Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel (!), as well as native Kurds and Shias.

Like Iraq other so-called hybrid processes were adopted for Kosovo and East Timor. The UN's international criminal court cannot try crimes committed before July 2002, when it was formally constituted ,but in any case USA is vehemently opposed to the Court. The Bush administration is opposed to the idea of supranational justice based on global treaties and the UN system.

Saddam and US Policy on Assassinations; 

It will remain a matter of speculation why the US decided to ‘capture’ Saddam Hussein December 2003 and not kill him or had him assassinated as they had tried earlier many times. After all his sons Uday and Qusay could have been captured by waiting out but were killed in north Iraq city of Mosul after a 6 hour fierce battle. The last to go down fighting against almost impossible odds was Saddam Hussein’s grandson Mustafa Hussein, not yet accused of any crimes.

Before the war the US government spokesman had publicly suggested assassination of Saddam Hussein saying that “one bullet would do”. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said "People who are in charge of fighting the war to kill United States troops cannot assume that they will be safe," thus making it clear that Saddam Hussein was included. USA targeted Saddam Hussein many times, based on intelligence reports, but failed to assassinate him. It only brought destruction and death – some more collateral damage.

In theory, pursuing with intent to kill violates a long-standing US policy banning political assassination. It was President Ford who had put a ban on assassinations in a 1976 executive order. It was reinforced by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and made no distinction between wartime and peacetime. There are no loop holes. How ever bad the leader might be, he could not be targeted by US directly or by a hired gun. But winking at assassination or murder seems to have become a normal policy when it suits USA.

The ban was placed after a Senate committee had disclosed a series of US assassination attempts abroad for many years, and not all successful .There were as many as eight attempts on the life of Cuban president Fidel Castro. Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in 1961 and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in 1963 were both assassinated, with suspicions about the hand of US agencies. There are many other examples .Assassination was also a weapon of retaliation, like against Libya when its agents allegedly killed US soldiers in a disco in Germany in 1986 and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 in which 270 persons, mostly American, were killed.

When asked if the 1986 bombing of Moammar Gadhafi's residence in 1986 was an effort to kill him, President Reagan said ,"I don't think any of us would have shed tears if that had happened." Recent U.S. assassination attempts have included Osama bin Laden, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic among others.

Abraham Sofaer, a former State Department legal adviser theorized that, "If a leader ... is responsible for killing Americans, and is planning to kill more Americans ... it would be perfectly proper to kill him rather than to wait until more Americans were killed." Then why quibble about equally illegal ways of Al Qaeda and its copy cats. Never mind that a White House spokesman said just before the war on Iraq, "There's an executive order that prohibits the assassination of foreign leaders, and that remains in place."

Amnesty wants Rumsfeld and others tried for Human right violations;

In its annual report in May on "The State of the World's Human Rights," Amnesty International (AI) described  the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “ the gulag of our times" and accused U.S. officials of flouting international law in their treatment of detainees.

AI also called on foreign governments to use international law to investigate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other alleged American "architects of torture" at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other prisons where detainees suspected of ties to terrorist groups have been interrogated for violations of the Geneva and torture conventions.

"If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them," said William Shulz, executive director of the U.S. branch of the international human rights agency.

There is no statute of limitations on crimes such as torture, Shulz added. "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998," warned Shulz. Gen Pinochet was arrested on an international warrant issued by a Spanish judge.

If the United States "continues to shirk its responsibility" of investigating allegations of abuse to the top of the chain of command, Shulz said, foreign governments should uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved. In addition to Rumsfeld and Gonzales, the list covered former CIA Director George Tenet; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo; and Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Shulz said the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment legally bind the countries that have signed them to exercise "universal jurisdiction" on people suspected of violations. Certain crimes, including torture, amount to offenses against all of humanity so all countries have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for such crimes, he said.

Of course led by US President Bush , his Vice-President Dick Cheny and others , the AI accusations were labeled as absurd .

"It is also worth noting," stressed Schulz, "that this administration never finds it 'absurd' when we criticize Cuba or China, or when we condemned the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein."


Servile western media and the theatre of jungle law;


Even before the trial  the corporate news networks in USA and British government mouthpiece BBC (its coverage of anti war and hence anti UK government view has not improved much beyond 2% , worst in the western TV channels ) are carrying out a mistrial by media by focusing on Halabja massacre. Blithely former US politicians like Madeline Albright and others , who could be charged for illegal attacks on Serbia were fielded . Justice should be seen to be fair with everyone equal before it.


CNN went around Saddam‘s stronghold and despite its selective approach , the views showed wider range of opinion than one sees on CNN and most of US channels or print media about misguided and illegal US policies.


After all there is the Patriot Act in place in USA and soon UK will have equally retrograde curbs on freedom of expression. After only over 3000 deaths in US on 11 September and over 50 on 7 July in London , the two self declared champions and promoters of liberty and freedom are fast regressing to pre Habeas Corpus era .Some resilience of the oldest and richest democracies ?


What if they had lost over 50,000 as India did to terror groups attacks , most of whom were originally financed , trained and armed by US led West , China and most Muslim countries or the loss of nearly 40, 000 in Turkey in the Kurdish rebellion . In spite of pious talk Anglo-Saxons have not taken real serious measures against the groups acting against India and Turkey, the first in Pakistan , ironically USA ‘s non Nato ally in its war on terror and in the second case in north Iraq under US control since 1991, where Turkish Kurdish rebels are now ensconced.. 


A leader in the Guardian said ,”Iraqis have a lot to worry about, getting through daily lives beset by occupation, bloody insurgency, shortages and fear. But the trial of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity, beginning in Baghdad today, is a very important moment in their country's troubled history. [ What about UK support for an invasion of Iraq ,illegal as many leaks have now confirmed.]

“But history also records that he invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, gassed Kurds at Halabja and suppressed a Shia uprising. Saddam's victims died in torture chambers and are buried in unmarked mass graves.[but this trial is not about Halabja and what about abuse of Iraqis by British troops and police in Iraq. Shias and Kurds rose because George H.W.Bush had asked them to revolt and then did nothing .Shias and Kurds killed many thousands of Bathists , they were then brutally suppressed by the Saddam regime. What if New Mexico or Scotland revolted.]

“Saddam's counsel plan to deploy the doctrine of sovereign immunity - used unsuccessfully by the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet - to defend his signature on death warrants. Loyal members of the Sunni community complain he is being subject to a "show trial" - though this is inevitable in that any trial would seek to demonstrate what he did. But that cuts both ways: given half the chance, especially in front of TV cameras, he is likely to try to emulate Slobodan Milosevic and turn the tables on his accusers, suggesting they, not he, are criminals. That should help lessen any sense that he is getting rough justice. [Western nations almost all of them provided arms , loans , poison gases and technology during his war against Iran , so all of them are accomplices in the alleged crimes of Saddam Hussein]

“Special pleading about this extraordinary case could only have been avoided if Saddam had ended his life like another unlamented tyrant, Romania's Nicolae Ceaucescu, in a hail of bullets at the moment of his demise. It is important for ordinary Iraqis and the wider Arab world to see and hear him 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 US-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.[ Would those responsible for  the death of half a million Iraqis because of UN sanctions and more than 100,00 killed since US led invasion of Iraq , would ever be tried?]

Even respectable Guardian recalls how he was found in a hole, when the US team leader who took credit for the capture denied the story . Saddam was betrayed for money as were his sons and his grandson,

“ Gassing of Kurds at Halabja”

One of the charges repeated ad nauseum is the gassing of the Kurds. In a Jan. 31, 2003 New York Times article “ A War Crime or an Act of War? Stephen C. Pelletiere stated that “ the truth is, all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not the only distortion in the Halabja story.

”I am in a position to know because, as the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and as a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, I was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States; the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair.  --- immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

”The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent - that is, a cyanide-based gas - which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

These facts have long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned.

The trial adds impetus to US provoked and encouraged civil war.

Saddam Hussein’s supporters have ordered guerrillas in Iraq to launch a wave of attacks on US and Iraqi forces .The call to arms, posted on the internet, came as Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq’s Shia interim Prime Minister, criticised the length of time that it has taken to bring Sadam to court.

“Salute the leader once he makes a public appearance at the trial by firing bullets and mortars of death at the occupier, its men, equipment and bases, as well as agents in the army and the symbols of treason,” exhorted a statement addressed to the “Baathist resistance”, “resistance fighters” and the “Fedayeen Saddam”, the former President’s irregular militia, said the website

“This illegal trial will turn a new page for the jihad of the Iraqi armed resistance . . . which was organised, launched and prepared for the long run by our companion and leader Saddam Hussein,” it added. “The occupier and its agents in power will never be able to make any political or security benefit from this trial.” [Saddam Hussein knew how irrational US leadership could be and had prepared for armed resistance ].

This was confirmed by former Chief UN weapons inspector Scot Ritter , when by chance he gate crashed into a building , where he found detailed preparations for Iraqi resistance if invaded. With Neo-cons and Israelis in cahoots , other irrational actions like attack on Syria and Iran can be  launched ( All options including attack on Iran are on the table, says Bush  ).That will truly see a totally changed wasteland ,which will only favour of China and Russia .This is a most incompetent set of people ever to head  a US Administration . Litany of their blunders is too long to be enumerated .

Recently well known journalist Pepe Escobar wrote ,”Iraqis desperately need security, electricity, water, food rations, health care, education, jobs. Instead they get a referendum on a constitution few of Iraq's theoretical 15.7 million voters have debated and fewer still have even seen. Why? Because the occupying power said so. So forget about the real priorities needed to make life liveable. No constitution will be able to rule over a battlefield.”

Whether the constitution is rejected or not, nothing will change, as far as Iraqis are concerned. Other diversions like parliamentary elections in December would make no difference either .Nor will this  sham trial . “The resistance will become even bloodier.” Said Globe and Mail that experts fear prosecution of Saddam Hussein could exacerbate tensions in the country.


(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal . He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies, in Bucharest .-

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