October 28, 2005
A defense lawyer for ousted Iraq president Saddam Hussein wrote to UN chief Kofi Annan Friday, October 28, calling for the court trying him on charges of crimes against humanity to be moved to The Hague and its Iraqi judges replaced by foreign ones. "We submit to you our request for your involvement and your good office in the present circumstances to call upon the US authority and the present government of Iraq to review the legal status of the present court and to reallocate the present court outside Iraq, i.e. The Hague, Netherlands," said the letter to Annan from defense lawyer Najib Al-Nawimi.
He called for the court to be given "independent and impartial international judges" and also for pressure to be put on the Iraqi authorities and their US backers to recognize Saddam and his co-defendants as prisoners of war, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Nawimi reiterated that his client refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Iraqi High Tribunal and again hit out at the obstacles placed in the way of the defense. "I don't acknowledge either the entity that authorizes you nor the aggression because everything based on falsehood is falsehood," Saddam told the chief judge during his trial on October 19. Chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, asked repeatedly Saddam to state his name, profession and tribal name but the ousted dictator refused. Saddam is on trial along with seven other defendants for the 1982 murder of 143 Shiites from Dujail village, allegedly as revenge for an attempt on Saddam's life.
In his letter to Annan, Nawimi – former Qatari Minister of Justice -- charged (Iraqi) prosecutors "did not hand over to the defense team a copy of the accusation list, neither granted us a proper access to our clients nor to have sufficient time as we had requested (for) three months". He also complained of serious security concerns following the assassination of Saadun Janabi, an attorney representing one of Saddam's co-defendants, earlier this month which he blamed on elements within the Iraqi interior ministry. "Though they have denied the present governments involvement, the material witnesses, we have proved the involvement of the present government in the assassination, which kept all the defense team feeling that they will be the second to be assassinated," he wrote. "We are in a very dangerous situation where the present Iraqi government has no control over our security to attend and participate in such a trial."
Janabi was murdered the day after Saddam and seven co-defendants went on trial on charges related to the 1982 execution of 143 Shiites from the village of Dujail. The case was adjourned until November 28 after all eight men pleaded not guilty. The lawyer's assassination already prompted Saddam's Amman-based defense team and lead Iraqi counsel Khalil Al-Dulaimi to announce Wednesday that they were suspending all contacts with the court on security grounds. "In view of the dangerous security conditions in Iraq and their impact on Iraqi members of the defense team, along with the never-ending threats against them and their families... a decision has been taken to fully suspend all contacts with the Iraqi Special (now High) Tribunal," their statement said.
Law experts and human rights groups have doubted the fairness of the Saddam trial and questioned its legality. "According to international law, the trial is null and void. Saddam, as he told the judge, is the legal elected leader of Iraq. But the court was set up by an occupying force that enjoys no legality," law expert Hassan Ahmed Omar told Al-Jazeera, commenting on Saddam's trial and his refusal to identify himself. The Egyptian international law expert further said that Saddam – regardless of the crimes he has committed – is legally a "kidnapped person who is standing trial by his own kidnappers". Human rights groups, for their part, have expressed unease about the possibility of "victor's justice", warning that the trial must not only be fair, but be seen to be fair, and raising concerns about the legitimacy of a body set up during US occupation.
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