October 7, 2002
The Bush administration is laying the groundwork for prosecuting Mr Saddam Hussein and what it calls a 'dirty dozen' of other officials for genocide, 'ethnic cleansing', mass executions, rape and other crimes against humanity. The list is a telling reflection of how the Iraqi leader rules: Half of the dozen are Mr Saddam's family members - two sons, three half-brothers and a cousin.
At least 130,000 civilians have been killed as a result of deliberate regime policies during Mr Saddam's 23-year rule, although that might prove to be only a fraction of the final tally, according to US officials and human rights groups. Tens of thousands, including women, children and the elderly, were victims of chemical weapons attacks.
In a massive ethnic cleansing campaign, more than 120,000 Iraqis - primarily Kurds, Turkomans and Assyrians - have been expelled forcibly from around city Kirkuk to 'Arabise' the oil-rich region, government and private groups say. Ethnic cleansing in the northern region Kurdistan, which began in 1991, has accelerated in recent months, say Human Rights Watch. Every week, three to 20 families are expelled from their homes, said Mr Hania Mufti, an Iraq specialist who was on a fact-finding mission to the region.
The push, involving the US State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence community, to prepare dossiers for war crimes prosecutions reflects the growing momentum in Washington towards ousting Mr Saddam and the preparation for the days after.
'We need to do our part to document the abuses, to collect the evidence that points to who is responsible,' said Mr Pierre-Richard Prosper, the State Department's ambassador-at-large for war crimes and a former UN war crimes prosecutor. 'We feel there has to be accountability for what has occurred. You can't brush aside the deaths of more than 100,000 people,' he said.
The issue of justice is also key to Iraqis, both for healing deep wounds and for rebuilding the nation. 'For Iraqis and the international community, the issue of addressing Saddam's crimes against humanity is as important as addressing his possession and use of weapons of mass destruction,' said Mr Sermid Sarraf, an Iraqi American lawyer who works with the State Department on government transition issues.
The United States, with varying degrees of support from Iraqi opposition groups and human rights groups, is looking at a three-tiered system of tribunals to deal with the army commanders, ruling Baath Party officials, government employees and security and intelligence agents implicated in war crimes.
The administration favours a tribunal to try top officials inside a 'free Iraq', with Iraqi and foreign judges, probably including Americans, say US officials. The tribunal would prosecute the leadership - which could well expand beyond the dirty dozen - for violations of both Iraqi law and international conventions.
'If and when there is a regime change, the appropriate forum should be at home, in a free and democratic Iraq,' said Mr Prosper. The concept has been endorsed by the Iraqi Jurists Association, a London-based exiled group, and by over 40 Iraqi emigrant judges, law professors and legal experts who met last month to discuss a post-Saddam transitional justice system.
The hybrid is also necessitated by the Bush administration's opposition to the International Criminal Court. US would look hypocritical if it asked for a UN-mandated war crimes tribunal.
After the trials of the top leaders, the next level - dealing with hundreds or even thousands of offences, as the war crimes go back a generation - would be left to local courts, US officials say.
The third and largest group of cases might never go to trial but would be worked out through a truth and justice commission that would grant amnesty in exchange for a full accounting of crimes.
To avoid violent retribution after regime change in Baghdad, the exiled group of jurists are calling on their countrymen not to take the law into their own hands.
More Information on Saddam's Regime
More Information on Iraq
More Information on International Justice
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.