25 Sep Saddam Sentenced to Death by Judge Who Didn’t Hear the Evidence
Long before Mr. Hussein was hanged on Dec. 30, 2006, with supporters of Iraq’s new Shiite-led government taunting him as the noose was tightened around his neck, a pattern of intervention by powerful Iraqi officials had been established. The court’s first chief judge was dismissed under government pressure for giving Mr. Hussein too much leeway for his courtroom outbursts, and the associate judge named to succeed him was removed under government threats before he could take over.
But until now, only officials involved with the court’s inner workings knew that a third judge, Munthur Hadi, was forced from the judges’ panel less than a week before the court delivered its verdicts, on Nov. 5, 2006. He was replaced by another judge, Ali al-Kahaji, who had heard none of the evidence in the nine-month trial. The replacement was favored, the Western lawyers say, because of his links with Mr. Maliki’s Dawa religious party, which had lost thousands of its members to Mr. Hussein’s repression, and because of Mr. Kahaji’s readiness to approve Mr. Hussein’s hanging.
William H. Wiley, one of the lawyers now speaking out, worked in the Regime Crimes Liaison Office, the American agency that set up, financed and counseled the Iraqi High Tribunal, the special court constituted to hear cases against senior Hussein-era officials. Mr. Wiley, 44, a Canadian who advised Iraqi defense lawyers at the trial, said the Maliki government, not the liaison office or officials in Washington monitoring the trial, was at fault for subverting due process in Mr. Hussein’s case.
“The prime minister’s office was perpetually banging on the door, until they finally got control of the whole process,” Mr. Wiley said in a telephone interview from Brussels, where he now heads a legal consulting firm.
Similar accounts of the replacement of Judge Hadi were given by an American lawyer who worked on the trial and by a Western legal expert familiar with what had happened. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivities involved.
The secrecy about Judge Hadi was made possible by the court’s ruling that the identities of all but the chief judge on the five-judge panels at the trials should be withheld from public disclosure, to protect the judges and their families. In the PBS documentary, Mr. Wiley said that “other members of the chamber,” apparently another judge, had told Mr. Maliki’s office that Judge Hadi was “relatively soft” during deliberations on the verdicts and sentences for the eight Dujail defendants and was leaning against a death sentence for Mr. Hussein.
At the time, court officials attributed Judge Hadi’s departure to ill health. One of the lawyers interviewed for this article dismissed that as a smoke screen and said that officials in Mr. Maliki’s office had in fact threatened Judge Hadi with the loss of his tribunal job and his pension, as well as with eviction, with his family, from housing in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, tantamount to a death sentence for anyone involved in prosecuting Mr. Hussein.
“The prime minister’s office had identified what they perceived to be the weak link, and he was removed and replaced by a hard-liner,” Mr. Wiley said.
Although I’m not surprised, I am certainly speechless. And I’m so angry that I’m literally shaking — not at the Iraqi government or the IHT judges, because we all knew from the beginning that they were only interested in executing Saddam as quickly as possible, due process and the rule of law be damned. No, I’m angry at the Western lawyers who said nothing while Saddam was being paraded to the gallows. Seriously, how can Wiley say that the RCLO was not “at fault for subverting due process in Mr. Hussein’s case”? They may not have replaced the “soft” judge themselves, but they let it happen without a word of public protest. They are thus no less complicit in Hussein’s cold-blooded murder — let’s call it what it was — than the Iraqi government.
Thank God we poured $128,000,000 taxpayer dollars into the RCLO to promote “justice and accountability” in Iraq. Money well spent, indeed.