Thursday, November 10, 2005

More difficulties with Hussein's trial

The Independent reports that lawyers for Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants have said that they will boycott the trial, after the second one of them was killed since the proceedings began, and another injured. We perhaps do not have to pay too much attention to their claim that the occupation forces are responsible for the killing; however, their secondary point, that US and UK forces should at least be ensuring the safety of those involved in the process, does seem much more reasonable.

As does their refusal to carry on with the trial until such safety can be guaranteed. Until now, a startling number of people involved in the proceedings have been murdered: One of the judges and his son, the brother of the Chief Prosecutor, and three other court officials. This brings the death toll of those involved to a startling eight - in two months. It is difficult to imagine how any trial, let alone a free, fair and transparent one, can take place in such a context.

Until now, the US and the Iraqi government have been strongly opposed to moves to hold the trial either in another country or before an international tribunal. This too is understandable; in symbolic terms alone, it is crucial that Hussein be seen to be tried by his own people, bfeore Iraqi courts. However, perhaps the time is approaching to consider something like the solution thrashed out with Libya during the Lockerbie affair: that is, holding a scottish court on international grounds. If the Iraqi court charged with trying Hussein were to be relocated to international territory, it might just represent an acceptable middle way between the need for the trial, judges and law to be Iraqi, and the requirement that it be carried out in relative safety. Just a thought.

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