"Why Don’t You Just Execute Us?"

by Roger Alford

An excerpt of a motion challenging the legitimacy of the tribunal is here:

“The Defense considers it their duty to point out at this juncture another peculiarity of this Trial which departs from the commonly recognized principles of modern jurisprudence. The Judges have been appointed exclusively by States which were the one party in this war. This one party to the proceeding is all in one: creator of the statute of the Tribunal and of the rules of law, prosecutor and judge. It used to be until now the common legal conception that this should not be so; just as the United States of America, … always demanded that neutrals, or neutrals and representatives of all parties, should be called to the Bench….”

But this motion was not filed by defense counsel for Saddam Hussein. No, this motion was filed in November 1945 by defense counsel near the beginning of the Nuremberg trial challenging the legitimacy of that tribunal.

Today, Saddam Hussein is trying the same approach. Here is a brief excerpt of the exchange at Hussein’s trial today:

Judge: ”Mr. Khalil, if you are going to leave the room, it will harm your client. The court will be obliged to appoint lawyers from the defense bureau.”

Saddam: ”The court is allowing the witness to speak, but it does not allow the defense lawyers to defend. Is this the justice?”

Judge: ”You will be heard.”

Al-Dulaimi: ”We will not stop until we receive the full answer to the question we are concerned with.”

Judge: ”We will give you enough time, regarding the refutation of the legitimacy of this court. This court is legitimate, legal and formed according to a law issued by the National Assembly.”

Saddam: ”Under the American occupation!”

Judge: ”No, and you are not allowed to speak.’

Saddam: ”How is it legitimate while it is the Americans who formed it?”

Al-Dulaimi: ”We will make presentations to you and refute the legitimacy of this court — that was based on the unjust U.S. aggression — verbally and then in writing.”

Then, after the judge called a recess, Saddam Hussein shouted, “Why don’t you just execute us?”

The tactic of challenging the legitimacy of the Nuremberg tribunal didn’t work in 1945. Hopefully it won’t work in calling into question the legitimacy of the Hussein trial in 2005.


One Response

  1. Roger:

    Looks like we’re on the same page this morning, as I posted about the Hussein trial 2 minutes after this went up. I agree with your point about Nuremburg…thankfully, the Allies were more concerned with retribution than procedural issues. In fact, many of the crimes for which the Nazis were tried were not illegal during WWII (there was no international law against genocide, for example). However, while the Allies may have preferred retributive justice to procedural, there was not a blind desire to punish. Many lower-level (and some high-level ones too) Nazis were not put on trial and were instead allowed to integrate back into German society to help with the reconstruction of the shattered country. The point is that justice is not the same in the domestic sphere as it is in international politics.

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