July 1, 2004
The Independent

Trial of the Century

No Mention of Power Cuts and Violence

by Robert Fisk

Now it is time for bread and circuses. Keep the people distracted. Show them Saddam. Remind them what it used to be like. Make them grateful. Make Saddam pay. Show his face once more across the world so that his victims will think about the past, not the present. Charge him. Before the full majesty of Iraq's new "democratic" law. And may George Bush win the next American election.

. . . The trouble is, we haven't got the charges against Saddam quite put together yet. It will take at least a year to decide the exact details of what he's going to be accused of.

The gassing of Halabja? Of course. The mass killings of Shia after the 1991 rising? No doubt. The torture of innocent Iraqis at Saddam's Abu Ghraib prison? Although that might not be a place name that the tribunal--or the Americans--want to hear right now. . . .

Then there's the little problem of the Iraqi tribunal whose "judges" all turn out to be lawyers without, apparently, any judicial skills. . . . Journalists will do their best to turn all this into a success story. Even yesterday, the BBC was telling viewers that Saddam's appearance in court was "exactly what Iraqis have been waiting for". Alas, Iraqis have been waiting for electricity and safety and freedom from crime and elections far more than the trial of the miserable old murderer who will be paraded before us.

As an Iraqi woman financial consultant--no friend of the Baath party--put it to me yesterday: "This is a childish play, written by children for children. We have real needs and they want us to go and watch a play." . . .

Heaven forbid he will accuse the new "interim" government of being puppets of the United States. Or, worse, remind the court of his own long relationship with US governments. But most assuredly, like the Cheshire Cat, he will fade away again, put back in his box for another 12 months until the "Trial of the Century".


Judith Rueff (translation by Leslie Thatcher), "The Court in Charge of Trying Saddam Has No Legal Standing," Liberation (France), July 1, 2004

"Today, Saddam faces justice at last. But where are the others accused of crimes against humanity?," The Independent, July 1, 2004

[Evidence offered by a top CIA man could confirm the testimony given by Saddam Hussein at the opening of his trial in Baghdad Thursday that he knew of the Halabja massacre only from the newspapers.--Sanjay Suri, "Saddam Could Call CIA in His Defence," Inter Press Service, July 2, 2004]

Jude Wanniski, "An Advocate for Saddam Hussein,", July 3, 2004

[Americans hold Saddam Hussein. Americans ran the court in which he appeared. Americans censored the tapes of the hearing. Who do you think is running the country?--Robert Fisk, "So this is what they call the new, 'free' Iraq," The Independent, July 4, 2004

Michael Howard and David Teather, "Saddam trial chief faces Iraqi murder charge," Guardian, August 9, 2004

[US and Iraqi officials have decided that the special tribunal that will pass judgment on Saddam Hussein will not be able to accuse any foreigner of complicity. Yet the history of the past 40 years is full of instances where non-Iraqis, including five US presidents, at least three French presidents, several British prime ministers and many western businessmen, have been aware of and even implicated in the crimes of the Ba'athist regime.

US support for mass killings in Iraq began as early as the presidency of John Kennedy. In 1963, alarmed by the sight of President Abdel-Karim Qassem cosying up to Moscow and threatening to nationalise Iraq's oil industry, the US decided to act. In February 1963 it supported a coup by the fiercely anti-communist Ba'ath party.--Michel Despratx and Barry Lando, "Iraq: crimes and collusions," Le Monde diplomatique, November, 2004]

["Legally, the United States is bound to ensure that Saddam Hussein has counsel since the US has exclusive control over him, and the denial of such access to counsel leaves the US legally liable for the deprivation of his civil rights."--Robert Winnett, "Saddam bids to challenge case in US," Times, December 19, 2004]

VIDEO: Barry Lando and Michel Despratx, "Web of Deceit: The Trial You'll Never See," 2004

[The intention of the United States to convict the former leader in an unfair trial was made starkly clear by the appointment of Chalabi's nephew to organize and lead the court. He had just returned to Iraq to open a law office with a former law partner of Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, who had urged the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi government and was a principal architect of U.S. postwar planning. . . .

Finally, any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power and the mandate to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq, if equal justice under law is to have meaning.--Ramsey Clark, "Why I'm Willing to Defend Hussein," Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2005]

Robert Fisk, "Saddam interrogation screened - in silence. The question is: Why?," Independent, June 14, 2005

John F. Burns, "Hussein Tribunal Shaken by Chalabi's Bid to Replace Staff," New York Times, July 20, 2005

[Western human rights groups have warned that Saddam is unlikely to get a fair trial. Critics here and abroad have said that the proper forum for the trials would have been an international tribunal of the kind that has spent four years hearing the case against the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, in The Hague.--John F. Burns, "On eve of Saddam's trial, questions," New York Times, October 19, 2005]

[Ramsey Clark, 77, who has pursued a career as a human rights lawyer since serving under President Lyndon Johnson from 1967-69, met Saddam last week.--Hala Jaber and Ali Rifat, "Top US lawyer shows Saddam how to stall his trial," Sunday Times, December 4, 2005]

[The Geneva Convention, to which Washington is a signatory, explicitly forbids an occupying power from creating courts.--Sara Flounders, "The Trial of Saddam Hussein," International Action Center, December 9, 2005]

Kim Sengupta, "Chaos as Saddam trial chief judge replaced again," Independent, January 24, 2006

Robert F. Worth, "Prosecutors Show Execution Orders Signed by Hussein," New York Times, February 28, 2006

[Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein, as lawlessness and sectarian violence sweep the country, the former U.N. human rights chief in Iraq said Thursday.--Kim Sengupta, " Ex-Official: Iraq Abuses Growing Worse," Associated Press, March 2, 2006

Patrick Cockburn, "Saddam had right to kill villagers, says Tariq Aziz," Independent, March 25, 2006

[ . . . they were flown to Amman after the detention of four other defense witnesses by US troops and "agents of the Iraqi Interior Ministry"--Abdul Jalil Mustafa, "Saddam had right to kill villagers, says Tariq Aziz," Arab News, June 4, 2006]

[The London-based lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, who is on Saddam's defence team, said the climate of fear around the trial was making it impossible for the court to reach a safe verdict.--David Fickling, "Gunmen kill Saddam lawyer," Guardian, June 21, 2006]

["If Imam Ali were alive today, would he have remained neutral?" she says she wrote, referring to the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, a central figure for Shiites. "If not, where would he have stood? With Bush or with Saddam Hussein?"--Hassan M. Fattah, "For a Shiite, Defending Hussein Is a Labor of Love," New York Times, June 24, 2006]

[ . . . two defendants told the court in Baghdad's Green Zone that the Iraqi army had only targeted Iranian troops and Kurdish rebels who were fighting together.--Mark Oliver, "Saddam co-defendants deny Anfal genocide," Guardian, August 22, 2006]

[Murdered lawyers and witnesses, political meddling, judges dismissed, lies in evidence: the prosecution of the Iraqi dictator has been flawed from the start. With the first verdict due next week, his eventual execution seems almost certain - but will that bring justice for his victims?--Peter Beaumont, " Saddam's trial farce stumbles to climax," Observer, October 29, 2006]

"Saddam sentenced to hang," Guardian, November 5, 2006

[The Bush administration hoped the hearings would expose the nature of Saddam's crimes that they had used, in part, to justify their invasion. They also expected a guilty verdict, and Saddam's resulting execution, would take the sting out of the Sunni insurgency. America spent more than $140m (74m) preparing for the trial, fortifying the court and training Iraqi officials.--Michael Howard, "A court on the verge of anarchy," Guardian, November 5, 2006]

Michael Howard and Julian Borger, "Bush hails 'milestone' amid EU doubts over death penalty, legality and timing," Guardian, November 6, 2006

Max Hastings, "Bush and Blair have forfeited the moral authority to hang Saddam," Guardian, November 6, 2006

[So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the British--Robert Fisk, "This was a guilty verdict on America as well," Independent, November 6, 2006]

[Let's start with George Bush senior, Saddam's sponsor, and let's not forget those journalists who echoed Bush junior's and Blair's lies that justified the invasion of Iraq.--John Pilger, "Now let's charge Saddam's accomplices,", November 9, 2006]

[The trial of Saddam Hussein was so flawed that its verdict is unsound, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch says.--"Saddam trial 'flawed and unsound'," BBC News, November 20, 2006]

[The US has hailed a ruling by an Iraq court that Saddam Hussein be executed within 30 days, while the EU has urged Baghdad not to carry out the sentence.--"Mixed reactions to Saddam verdict," BBC News, December 27, 2006]

Bronwen Maddox, "Victor's justice will deepen rifts that threaten Iraqi unity," Times, December 28, 2006]

Anne Penketh, "Saddam trial verdict tarnished by Iraqi court's failings," Independent, December 30, 2006]

[In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib - and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.--Robert Fisk, "A dictator created then destroyed by America," Independent, December 30, 2006]

Alan Cowell, "Around the World, Unease and Criticism of Penalty," New York Times, December 31, 2006

[Saddam's last words were . . . "Ashadu an la ilaha ila Allah, wa ashhadu ana Mohammedun rasool Allah" Which means, "I witness there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is His messenger."--"A Lynching...," Baghdad Burning, December 31, 2006]

[Rizkar Mohammed Amin, who later resigned as the trial's chief judge, . . . also claimed that Iraqi law stipulates an execution must be carried out 30 days after the appeal court's decision on the sentencing--"Former Saddam judge says execution violates Iraqi law," AFP, January 1, 2007]

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