HRW says Saddam trial suffers form ”serious shortcomings”
The Iraqi High Tribunal must improve its practices if it is to do justice in the upcoming Anfal trial in which Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan al-Majid are accused of genocide, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
The trial, which begins on August 21, could provide a public airing of the Ba’ath Party’s 1988 extermination campaign against Iraqi Kurds that included the regime’s use of poison gas.
“The Anfal campaign was a genocide carried out against part of the Kurdish population,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program. “Genocide is the most serious crime there is, and it’s essential that the tribunal conducts the Anfal trial fairly.”
Based on extensive observation of the tribunal’s conduct of its first trial, where Saddam Hussein and seven others were charged with crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch believes that the Iraqi High Tribunal is presently incapable of fairly and effectively trying a genocide case in accordance with international standards and current international criminal law.
Human Rights Watch’s observation of the Dujail trial, in which the defendants are accused of ordering the murder of villagers from Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on Hussein, indicated a number of serious shortcomings in the institutional functioning of the court. None of the Iraqi judges and lawyers has shown an understanding of international criminal law. The court’s administration has been chaotic and inadequate, making it unable to conduct a trial of this magnitude fairly. And the court has relied so heavily on anonymous witnesses that it has undercut the defendants’ right to confront witnesses against them and effectively test their evidence.
These shortcomings have been compounded by the sharp deterioration of the security environment in Iraq, including the tribunal’s failure to protect defense counsel targeted for assassination.