Where’s the Verdict in Saddam’s Trial?

by Kevin Jon Heller

I noted a couple of weeks ago that the Iraqi High Tribunal’s failure to release the written verdict at the same time that it announced Saddam’s conviction was strong evidence that, despite my earlier skepticism, the announcement was timed to influence the U.S. elections. Well, the written verdict still has not been publicly released — making the inference of political gerrymandering essentially unassailable.

Apparently, the written verdict exists and has been provided to the Cassation Panel. But it has not been published — and has not been given to the defense, much to their concern:

Saddam’s defense team complained on Wednesday that despite “repeated requests” it had not received a copy of the verdict so that it could begin work on an appeal and lodge it with the court within the 30-day deadline after the November 5 verdict.

Chief counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi accused the Iraqi High Tribunal, the court that tried Saddam and seven others for crimes against humanity, of “pursuing its continued efforts to obstruct the efforts of the defense to submit a legal … appeal against the unjust verdicts.”

The IHT’s response? You can read the verdict on our website:

The court’s chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Moussawi, told Reuters on Thursday it had been decided not to print the verdict, which runs to hundreds of pages, but to publish it on the tribunal’s Web site, which appeared to be down on Thursday.

When told that the defense team was complaining they still did not have a copy of the verdict 10 days after it was announced, he said they could read it on the Web site.

“We cannot publish all these pages and deliver it to all the lawyers. Legally, nothing prevents us from delivering the verdict on the Web site,” he said.

He said he was unsure whether it had been posted on the Web site but an official at the court’s information centre said it would probably only appear next week. The official was unable to give a reason for the delay.

It is difficult to imagine a more dramatic example of the IHT’s complete disdain for defendants’ rights. The defense team now has less than two weeks to lodge its appeal.

And, of course, the IHT’s website is still down.


4 Responses

  1. The great irony of this, of course, is that this is precisely one tactic that Saddam would use during his time in power. Commercial lawyers I knew who had worked in Iraq at that time told me about hearing dates being set and just before the hearing people would show up at the lawyer’s office and keep them from going to the hearing. I also was told about holidays being suddenly declared for judges on the last day for an appeal to be filed so that there were no judges to sign for the appeal at the courthouse. Also, judgments being announced and not being given. The judgment would be dated and the period for appeal would start running from the date of the judgment but the lawyers could not get the judgment to file the appeal. Someone told me of having a car ready and getting the judgment and running it to the car to carry it over to the appeals court before the workday ended so they could file an appeal at the last minute just before closing time for the court. Amazing!



  2. >>”Well, the written verdict still has not been publicly released — making the inference of political gerrymandering essentially unassailable.”< <

    To be followed by the phrase, “… in my mind.” Puleez. I mean really, even if the trial was procedurally flawed, is there any, ANY doubt, that Saddam was a mass murderer? Sheez.

  3. Cassandra,

    So, to your mind, it doesn’t matter whether a defendant receives a fair trial as long as he is guilty? So why not just shoot him in the back of the head, Soviet style, and save all that effort? Not exactly due process, but if he’s guilty, who cares, right?

  4. Actually, Kevin Heller makes a reasonable (although unintentional) point, in that we might have been better served, from a real politik viewpoint, to have simply bypassed the trial.

    Obviously, an unfair trial is undesirable from a rule of law point of view, however, few dictators ever see the court. Had Saddam been killed by a US bomb during the conflict, would it have differed meaningfully from being executed after capture?

    Having resolved (and attempted, several times) to kill him during the conflict, it seems a little strange that he should be entitled to the due process denied so many of his soldiers (who had committed no crime, save being in the regular army of a sovereign nation) during the active conflict.

    I suppose it all is tied up with the Geneva Conventions and the prohibition against “no quarter” conflicts.

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