October 18, 2005


As Hussein trial nears, town reflects on horror: Many voice hope for punishment (Sa'ad al-Izzi and Anne Barnard, October 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

DUJAIL, Iraq: The people of this grape-growing town 35 miles north of Baghdad live surrounded by reminders of the time they tangled with Saddam Hussein. Dust blows where date palms once stood, scores of families still mourn, and a makeshift memorial displays photographs of the dead.

When Hussein's long-awaited trial opens tomorrow, Iraqi prosecutors plan to charge him first with ordering the killing of more than 140 men from Dujail and exiling their families to a desert camp in 1982 after a band of gunmen tried to assassinate him on a visit to the town. To the families of the alleged victims, and hundreds of thousands more across Iraq, the trial offers tantalizing hope that they will see Hussein punished at last.

''We want to eat him alive," said Salimah Majeed Al-Haidari, 60, who spent more than four years in detention, then waited 17 more to learn that her husband and two sons, hauled off by security officers, had been executed. ''We wish they would cut him to pieces and hand them out to us and families like us."

As Al Gore so often reminds us, but for the vote of one Supreme Court Justice these folks would still be living in terror.

Trial of Milosevic Holds Lessons for Iraqi Prosecutors (Molly Moore, 10/18/05, Washington Post)

As Iraqi prosecutors prepare for the trial of former president Saddam Hussein, scheduled to begin in Baghdad on Wednesday, Milosevic's slow-moving case at the U.N. Balkans war crimes tribunal demonstrates the many pitfalls entailed in trying deposed leaders in a court of law: The defendants drag out their cases, they can intimidate witnesses, and any links to atrocities are usually concealed by layers of subordinates.

For the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia -- the first international war crimes court established since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II -- the long-running Milosevic courtroom drama is both a cause of the toughest criticism the tribunal has received and a symbol of its greatest success.

"The slowness sometimes doesn't give us the best image," Theodor Meron, president of the 25-judge tribunal, said in an interview. "But this is truly an historic case."

Speaking of the Iraqi court, Meron said it would have to guarantee the rights of its famous defendant to be credible to the public: "Any court dealing with atrocities has to pay particular respect to due process. There can be no cutting corners."

Why? Why should these guys be afforded a stage for their views and an opportunity to exploit the system? Who cries for Mussolini?

Video clip seen as key in Saddam case (MARIAM FAM, October 19, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Dujail case all started when Saddam visited the previously little-known town of July 8, 1982.

What followed, the prosecutor said, was a series of raids, arrests, killings and destruction of a scale disproportionate to a relatively minor incident.

There is a widely held belief that gunmen shot at Saddam's convoy as it drove through Dujail. The chief prosecutor challenged that Wednesday, arguing that about a dozen bullets, maybe up to 15, were fired from an automatic rifle into the air - not at Saddam's motorcade.

In a speech after the alleged attack, Saddam himself told the people of Dujail that no more than 10 gunmen were involved, al-Mousawi said.

That same day, four people from Dujail were arrested and brought to Saddam, who personally interrogated them.

Then, hours after the Iraqi president left town, huge numbers of Republican Guards, security forces, members of Saddam's Baath party and his intelligence service descended on Dujail, sealing it off. Helicopters indiscriminately fired on fields, killing many people, al-Mousawi said.

Back in Baghdad, Saddam asked Taha Yassin Ramadan - a co-defendant in the Dujail trial - to head a security meeting in response to the alleged attack against him, and asked his half brother, Barazan Ibrahim, to lead the operations, the prosecutor said.

The response was swift.

Ibrahim arrived in Dujail at 7 p.m. that same day. He ordered security and intelligence forces to raid homes and to arrest suspects and their relatives. In all, 687 were detained. Because the Dujail operations center was too small, the suspects were sent to a security office in Baghdad.

On July 10, a committee headed by Ramadan was formed upon Saddam's order to study the situation in Dujail and make security recommendations.

The committee recommended that 399 detainees - including women, children and elderly - be transferred to a desert detention camp in Samawah, near the Saudi border, and that the detainees orchards and agricultural lands in Dujail be destroyed.

When the intelligence investigators returned from Dujail, they started questioning 148 suspects.

"They used all kinds of physical and psychological torture against them," al-Mousawi said, claiming that 46 of them died during the interrogations and were secretly buried.

Saddam honored some of the officials who carried out the acts of reprisals against the people of Dujail, prompting investigators to "embark on more barbaric acts," the prosecutor added.

The 148 were then referred to the Revolutionary Court - a step that al-Mousawi said was a charade of justice.

Among the 148 people were the 46 who al-Mousawi maintains died during interrogations; four who were apparently executed separately and who al-Mousawi says were not even related to the Dujail case; and two who were detained in the desert camp.

"This shows that the procedures of the Revolutionary court were nominal and only on paper, meaning that the defendants were not brought to the court and were not tried," the prosecutor told the court.

Nonetheless, he said, the 148 received death sentences within hours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2005 8:15 AM

Whe comparing Saddam's upcoming trial to Milosevic's, I think the key phrase here is "U.N. Balkans war crimes tribunal". I don't think the Iraqis are going to have their trials snared by the stasis of action that is standard for any United Nations-administered organization.

Posted by: John at October 18, 2005 10:30 AM

The only reason Milosevic's trial is historic is because it is still running (you know, like on Broadway).

That, and the fact that Mladic and Karadzic are still at large.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 18, 2005 11:08 AM

Speaking of the Iraqi court, Meron said it would have to guarantee the rights of its famous defendant to be credible to the public: "Any court dealing with atrocities has to pay particular respect to due process. There can be no cutting corners."

Does anyone remember anyone caring about how Romania dealt with Ceausescu?

Posted by: Timothy at October 18, 2005 4:38 PM

Carla Del Ponte has done more to discredit international justice than any prosecutor who's ever lived.

Posted by: Steve White at October 18, 2005 5:52 PM

Jack Ruby call your office.

Posted by: tefta at October 18, 2005 6:15 PM

Theodor Meron may be 'president' for life... just like you-know-who

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at October 18, 2005 9:48 PM