Iraq's deposed leader, Saddam Hussein is unlikely to stand trial for at least another two years, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday. The Iraqi special tribunal for crimes against humanity is months away from hearing its first case, and when the trials start in October or November the first defendants to appear will be high-ranking Ba'ath party officials.
"I think it will take two years to get to Saddam being tried," said Salem Chalabi, one of the architects of the court and a nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress.
The need to select and screen judges, prepare courts and establish well-guarded jails to hold the suspects have led to delays. "There are frustrations," Chalabi was quoted as saying by the British daily.
The court has to balance the demand of most Iraqis for a rapid show trial of Saddam and his deputies with the need to establish an impartial model for the new judiciary.
"It is a balance that we have to work here between trying to protect defendants' rights and meet international standards of due process of law and the wish of the Iraqis for quick vengeance," said Chalabi.
He said he was under pressure from American officials to limit the tribunal's cases "for political reasons" - apparently because they want to avoid further alienating Iraq's Sunni community, from which Saddam and most of his close aides are drawn. "The US wants us not to make it more than 30 or 50 [cases]," he said. "I envisage 300."
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)