German UN judge criticizes Saddam Hussein trial
17 October 2005, THE HAGUE - A United Nations judge has criticized the trial of former dictator Saddam Hussein by an Iraqi special court, saying Monday it would have been better to task an international court with the case.
17 October 2005
THE HAGUE - A United Nations judge has criticized the trial of former dictator Saddam Hussein by an Iraqi special court, saying Monday it would have been better to task an international court with the case.
Wolfgang Schomburg, a German who sits on U.N. tribunals trying war crimes in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said the Iraqi court, advised as it was by U.S. lawyers, had some features of "victors' justice".
In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Schomburg said the world could have set up a special court for Saddam.
"Since the United States does not cooperate with the permanent court of international criminal justice in The Hague, a tribunal supported by the international community as a whole would have had to be set up, as happened with Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone."
Schomburg said there had been an advance in law since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders following the Second World War towards an international criminal jurisdiction, but the Saddam trial inverted this progress.
The Nuremberg trials were conducted by the Allies and later faced criticism from some legal scholars who said the victors should not have made themselves the arbiters of justice.
Schomburg added that fair proceedings and discovery of the truth about the past in the trials of Saddam and associates was barely possible in Iraq's atmosphere of violence and inter-ethnic tension.
"Under pressure and lacking the necessary distance from the case, even the most benevolent judge would find it hard to reach a fair verdict," he said.
Schomburg, an expert on international criminal law, also criticized what he called the "arbitrary" time span for offences triable by the Iraqi court. It has jurisdiction over events between 1968 and the start of May 2003.
He added that Saddam had not been indicted at all for the most serious offences he is suspected of, but only for crimes that were minor by comparison. If he were to be prematurely sentenced to death for those, which could not be ruled out, "the larger context will never be investigated".
Schomburg said a thorough inquiry by the courts into genocide and war crimes was often beneficial to political reconciliation in a nation. This had been demonstrated by the U.N. tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
"Why should a transformation of the people's attitudes not be possible in Iraq as well?" he said. "We ought not to abandon our hope for the inseparable trio of truth, justice and peace, even in Iraq."
Subject: German news