Iraq's Special Tribunal, empowered to try war crimes, yesterday announced the first charges against former President Saddam Hussein and three others. They are accused of organizing the killing of some 145 people in the village of Al-Dujayl in 1982. This is not the bloodiest of Saddam's alleged crimes. But legal experts say this case will be easier to prosecute than some of those involving far larger numbers of victims. The crime can be traced through official documents, while witness have already given their testimony to the tribunal. The trial might begin as early as the middle of September.
Prague, 18 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Ra'id al-Juhi, the chief investigating judge of Iraq's Special Tribunal, appeared before cameras yesterday to announce the first criminal case filed against the country's former dictator, Saddam Hussein.
"The investigating team in the special tribunal for the Iraqi people and the victims of the old regime announces the conclusion of the investigation into the crimes that were committed in the village of Dujayl, in which more than 150 people were killed and many families were held up by the [former regime] illegally," al-Juhi said.
Al-Juhi said the trial proceedings could start within days raising the possibility the actual trial could begin as soon as September. Also charged in the case are Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Hussein's half-brother and former chief of Iraq's intelligence service; Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former deputy prime minister; and Awad Hamad Badr al-Bandar, former chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court.
In 1982, the mainly Shi'ite village of Al-Dujayl was the scene an assassination attempt against President Hussein. According to the charges, Hussein's security forces rounded up some 150 men and killed them in retaliation.
David Hartwell, country risk analyst for the Middle East at the London-based organization Jane's Information Group, said the tribunal probably decided to prosecute the Al-Dujayl case first, believing it would prove the easiest to secure a conviction, something Hartwell said was key for the first trial against Hussein.
"It may be a case of 'let's introduce charges first of all that we're pretty sure we can get a conviction on,'" Hartwell said. "Part of the problem that the prosecutors may face is trying to attach blame to how far was he (Hussein) responsible for giving the orders to carry out the atrocities. The burden of blame in establishing the chain of command up to Saddam Hussein may be the major problem that they (the prosecutors) may have to face."
Hartwell said that Hussein could receive a death sentence at the trial over the Al-Dujayl events, making further trials unnecessary.
Some in Iraq, like Faris Dhiab Salal, said they would like to see Hussein on trial as soon as possible and hoped that images of the former Iraqi dictator facing justice would lead to changes.
"The subject is that we hope Saddam is tried as soon as possible and all Iraqis hope that too. Saddam Hussein deserved more than what we said about him," Salal said. "Yes, of course there is a change, lots of things changed. Terrorism might be reduced. Many things have changed. Not only Iraqis, all the world hoped Saddam would be tried."
Hartwell agreed that seeing Hussein on trial could boost the Iraqi people's morale, but doubted it would have a substantial effect on the insurgency.
"If we assume that the insurgency is now essentially driven more by the outside elements (foreign fighters) than by inside elements then we might well conclude that putting Saddam on trial won't actually have that much effect on how the insurgency is perceived," Hartwell said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi urged Iraq to ensure that Hussein answers for his crimes against Iran. IRNA news agency reported that Iran expects the coming trial of Hussein to consider seriously the harm done to Iran.
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