Speeding up Saddam Hussein's trial

10 October 2005 by Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi

Saddam Hussein is scheduled to stand trial starting October 19th, more than 20 months after Americans arrested the former Iraqi leader. The trial will begin with Dujail, a town 35 miles north of Baghdad, where 143 people were killed by forces loyal to Saddam in 1982 in a reaction to an assassination attempt against Saddam. The former president will stand trial alongside 7 other defendants including his half-brother and former head of the Mukhabart secret police, the former prime minister, former Vice chairman of the Baath Party and the former chief judges of the revolution court.

After this trial, Saddam should face a series of more serious charges such as the killing of hundreds of thousands of people during the Al-Anfal campaign, which targeted Kurds in the North at the end of the 1988 war with Iran in an attempt to crush the Kurdish militias, or the killing of thousands of Shiites following a failed uprising in the South after the first Gulf war in 1991. The initial strategy in all these cases was to collect evidence and follow the chain of command, trying lower-ranking Baathist leaders first so as to gather a full range of evidence against Saddam. The question then arises, why is Saddam now being tried first, and in a relatively minor case?

The answer has to do with the inherently political nature of such a trial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) consists of three trial chambers with five judges each, nine appeal judges, fifteen examining magistrates and sixteen prosecutors. It is meant to be an independent court that does not report to anyone in the Iraqi government. It is supposed to apply its own laws and set its own calendar. But this independence has been hard to maintain.

Political pressure

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.