On the Dock

Saddam on Trial

Saddam Hussein is finally facing justice for the massacre of almost 150 people after a failed assasination attempt. Saddam and seven others have been charged with murder, torture and wrongful imprisonment charges resulting from the 1982 killing of 148 men, women and children in Dujail. After a reading of the charges all defendants entered pleas of not guilty.

This is the first of what could prove to be many trials involving Hussein for crimes against humanity while he was the dictator of Iraq. At the hearing, Saddam denied that legitimacy of the tribunal, and claimed that he was still legally president of Iraq, thus immune from any prosecution.

Some people, many of whom are even considered to be "human rights activists", have stated that this trial is a sham and should not go on. They doubt the ability of the new Iraqi government to give a fair trial and have suggested that any trial should be held by an international tribunal at the world court. This thinking is wrong.

First of all, crimes against humanity trials in the Hague tend to become circuses that have much more to do with appearances of fairness than justice. They also go on too long and give the defendants too much of a podium to filibuster and run out on tangents. (Can you say "Milosovic"?)

More importantly, this trial is an important step in returning Iraq to the world community. They need to show that the rule of law will be followed, and there is no better way to accomplish this than to have a high-profile trial in which justice is the main goal. This does mean that the judges have to ensure that the trial is fair- Saddam and his henchmen need to be able to defend themselves by bringing forth witnesses and having their arguments considered. There cannot be any manufactured evidence allowed at the trial, and the trail must remain focused on the events surrounding the Dujail events and not run off into Saddam's other evil doings.

It is also vital that the Iraqi people see what type of a court system they can expect under the new constitution. The people of the greater middle east also need to see what the rule of law in a democracy can mean, and they need to see that it is Arab people that sit in judgement of the Arab accused, and not some made-up tribunal in a foreign land.

I fully expect to see Saddam convicted, and receive the full measure of justice. I also fully expect that there will be many who bemoan the fact that he is swinging from the end of a rope, but it is undeniable that he will be fairly judged, which is a hell of a lot better than the people of Dujail were treated.

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